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UK and South Africa announce clean technology mineral partnership

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The UK and South Africa have announced they are establishing a new partnership dedicated to the responsible and sustainable exploration of minerals in South Africa for use in clean energy technologies.   

The UK government announced earlier this week that it will be working with the Republic of South Africa to deepen colleaboration on a range of minerals mining and energy projects, including through regular ministerial and technical dialogues between South Africa’s Department for Mineral Resources and Energy (RSA) and the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

South Africa is a leading producer of raft of minerals that are used in clean technologies, including platinum, palladium, and iridium, which are used for hydrogen production, as well as vanadium and manganese, which are used for battery storage.

Demand for minerals used in clean technologies is set to soar in recent years, sparking concerns over both security of supply and the environmental impact of large scale extraction.

As such, under the new partnership the UK and South Africa have committed to working together to promote the responsible exploration, development, production, and processing of minerals in South Africa. By working together, the governments said they can help support investment in mineral exploration and production that adheres to high environmental stamdards, while also expanding access to minerals that are key for clean industrial and economic development and the global clean energy transition.

They said that promoting the responsible extraction of minerals will be central to the global clean energy transition, as well as ensuring the sustainability of the mining industry and supply chains through financing, high environmental, social and governance standards, health and safety, and by building a highly skilled workforce.

The countries said they are looking to collaborate on a range of clean technologies, including but not limited to battery storage, fuel cell technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies.

“Working together we hope to identify mutually beneficial projects and related initiatives,” they said in a statement.

Additionally, they hope that the partnership will also promote the participation of private sector companies into the sustainable mining industry and support investment flows into the sector which could in turn create and grow new clean jobs.

Both countries said they will encourage and support partnerships between UK and South African companies across the value chain for minerals and clean energy to grow and strengthen business links to the benefit of both economies.

The announcement of the new partnership forms part of a wider updated memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Republic of South Africa and UK government, focusing on cooperation in science, technology, research and innovation which was unveiled earlier this week. 

The new memorandum replaces and updates the previous agreement, titled the Memorandum of Understanding on Scientific cooperation, which the countries signed in 1995.

In the new MOU, both countries stated that they are “committed to broadening the scope of Research and Innovation collaboration through the creation of a productive partnership for peaceful purposes and mutual benefit”.

The news follows the official state visit of South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa who visited London for two days this week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with President Ramaphosa to discuss the next stages of partnership between the two countries, which also included the launch of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership, supporting South Africa’s economic growth through major infrastructure developments, and offering increased access to UK companies to projects worth up to £5.37bn over the next three years. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly welcomed the news of the visit and new MOU, highlighting the opportunity to collectively explore green innovation.

“This week’s State Visit, the first under His Majesty The King, is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our ties but also allows us to trigger greater growth, create even more opportunities for British and South African businesses alike, and further promote South Africa’s transition to green energy,” he said.

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