Critical minerals in renewables

Critical minerals resources: Modern life doesn't grow on trees

If the future is green then our energy must be clean! Items in this section represent renewable energy and are reliant on ores like chalcopyrite, bastnasite and graphite.


Chalcopyrite is an ore of copper, the third most commonly mined metal in the world, with 20.7 million tonnes produced per year. Copper is a major component in renewable energy technologies, with its biggest uses in solar panels and wind turbines. It is a very efficient electrical conductor, allowing for efficient energy transfer, so is also commonly used for wires.

Bastnasite is an ore for a group of elements known as rare earth elements (REEs) and 208 000 tonnes are produced per year across the globe. REEs are a group of 17 chemical elements that are critical raw materials for a wide range of modern technologies. They have unique magnetic and chemical properties that make them essential components in many high-tech applications. The elements extracted from bastnasite are used to manufacture motors in electric vehicles and generators in wind turbines.

Graphite, which is a form of the element carbon, is widely used in lithium-ion batteries, which are found in many pieces of technology including electric vehicles. Graphite is a critical mineral in the UK, meaning it is vital to the production of high-tech products and advanced technologies, but is challenging to extract and process.

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Bismuth (synthetic form). © BGS / UKRI

Critical minerals resources

Our modern lives rely on a whole host of metals and minerals that are extracted from the ground. Available resources include classroom activities and a touring festival stand.

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A wooden tree sculpture adorned with items from modern life. Commoditree BGS © UKRI.

Modern life doesn’t grow on trees!

Modern Life Doesn’t Grow On Trees is a touring festival stand curated and designed by BGS’ public engagement team and scientists, which features #TheCommoditree installation.

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