EXPLORATORY drilling for rare metals essential in the production of electric batteries is now underway in Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeen Minerals Limited (AML), a company which is seeking to explore the extent of battery metal deposits in the north east of Scotland, has commenced drilling at its Arthrath project in Aberdeenshire.

Arthrath contains the largest known nickel deposit in the UK. However, other metals and minerals such as copper, cobalt, palladium and platinum are also being targeted by the drilling, many of which are essential in the production of electrical vehicle batteries and wind turbines.

The CEO of AML, Fraser Gardiner, said the drilling represented an important step forward in the domestic production of rare minerals for renewable energy: “We are delighted to be underway with our drilling programme in Arthrath.

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“The transition to renewable energy and a net-zero economy will require large increases in the global production of nickel, copper and cobalt.

“With the UK industry and green jobs relying entirely on overseas supply chains for these critical raw materials, our drilling programme represents an important milestone towards developing domestic mineral potential right here in north east Scotland.”

The work is being carried out by specialist contractor Priority Drilling UK using a single, small footprint drill rig.

It will see a small 48mm or 64mm hole bore into the bedrock with a cylindrical “core” of rock extracted for geological study and testing.

The current project seeks to expand on drilling for minerals undertaken by the mining corporation Rio Tinto in the 1960s and 70s.

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It will allow for new detailed geological and rock chemistry data to be collected and modelled and higher-grade mineralised zones to be investigated further.

Six boreholes are currently planned for this phase of the work, which is expected to last two to three months.

Last year, AML undertook an “airborne geophysical survey” of the region using a helicopter.