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Economics

Trade
The UK is dependent on imports for the supply of many economic minerals, notably metals but increasingly, energy minerals - coal, oil and natural gas. Imports are necessary where indigenous resources are deficient (as is the case with metals), or where existing resources are being rapidly depleted (oil and gas) or where indigenous resources are uncompetitive with imports (deep coal).
     
The UK has large resources of rocks that can be profitably worked for use as aggregate. Historically, therefore, the UK has been self-sufficient in the supply of primary aggregates and imports have not been necessary.
 
Unloading aggregates from a barge in London

Unloading aggregates from a barge in London.

  Aggregate transport by rail

Aggregate transport by rail.

The UK has large resources of rocks that can be profitably worked for use as aggregate. Historically, therefore, the UK has been self-sufficient in the supply of primary aggregates and imports have not been necessary. Aggregates are also the lowest value materials that are moved by road, rail, and sea. Transport costs are, therefore, an important element of the final delivered price of aggregates. Ideally they should be produced close to where they are consumed. However, the distribution of aggregate resources in Britain is uneven (regional supply). Consequently there is substantial, and increasing, movement of aggregate in the UK, including small shipments from Europe, mainly from Norway and landed in the south-east (which is deficient in crushed rock). Significant increases in imports are likely to be constrained by deficiencies in infrastructure (wharf facilities and rail links).

  Important facts :
  • Total imports of primary aggregates were about 3 million tonnes in 2004.
  • Total exports of primary aggregates were about 12.3 million tonnes in 2004.
  • The UK is a net exporter of aggregates.
  • This is due to landings ( about 6 million tonnes per year) at ports in Europe of sand and gravel dredged on the UK Continental Shelf, and exports of crushed rock from Britain's only large coastal quarry at Glensanda in north-west Scotland.
  • Currently imports only account for about 1% of total aggregates demand.