|Before Christmas Jane Harrison gave a Zoom talk to members about the Geology and Industrial Archaeology around Richmond. The Yoredale rocks with their repeating sequences of limestones, shales, mudstones, and sandstones have helped to create the distinctive landscape of Swaledale.
Map, lidar and historical evidence was used to identify areas of mining and quarrying around Richmond. The remains of coal pits can still be seen today on Thorpe Edge and Hudswell Moor, but those near High Coalsgarth seem to have vanished. Lead and copper were also mined locally on a small scale. At the turn of the 20th century a copper mine was opened in Billy Banks Woods. The blocked off entrances to the two levels and the massive stone trackway along to Green Bridge remain. It is hoped that a future SWAAG walk will visit some of the sites mentioned in the talk.
In January we had a rather different meeting, when SWAAG member Les Knight gave a very thought-provoking talk on Rare Earths. Although these heavy metals are not household names, they are used in an increasing range of applications from energy efficient light bulbs, rechargeable batteries, and smart phones to super magnets, catalytic convertors, hybrid vehicles, and wind turbines.
They are not particularly ‘rare’, but they occur in low concentrations and mining creates large quantities of toxic and radioactive waste. China has developed a monopoly of rare earth and super magnet production prompting a search for alternative sources.
Rare earths are key resources for the UK’s green industrial revolution, but their importance has received surprisingly little recognition. A low-carbon future will be very mineral intensive. The UK’s first rare earths processing plant on Humberside was granted planning permission in 2021.
The increasing world-wide demand for these materials raises issues of equity, resource availability, resource security and geopolitics.