Thursday, 1 July 2021

June update- the G7 summit comes to town, and so does Covid

It's a crazy world!  If asked to choose a least likely venue for a G7 summit of world leaders then high on the list might be Carbis Bay, a small seaside village in the far south-west of Cornwall, serviced by one of Cornwall's notoriously narrow lanes. 

Carbis Bay in quieter times

But this was where the summit was held for 3 days, from 11th to 13th last month, causing massive disruption, which somewhat overshadowed the serious topics, such as the pandemic, and the environment, which were discussed by the seven leaders of the UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The head of the Police Federation in England and Wales suggested little thought had been given to security plans, saying that holding G7 in a Cornish resort was 'bonkers' and a security nightmare.

The meeting was held at the Carbis Bay Hotel, alongside a massive security operation, police erecting a "ring of steel" around large sections of the resort, which borders the popular tourist town of St Ives, the G7 leaders being housed at the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St. Ives, which some of you will remember as being the venue for Minerals Engineering '95.

The eyes of the world were on this most beautiful of places last month, but most would be unaware that there is another side to this idyl, poverty and lack of affordable homes, but I will not go into this, instead I refer you to an excellent article by Tanya Gold, who writes with great eloquence on the prostitution of Cornwall.

Over 5000 police staff from across the UK were drafted into Cornwall, around 1000 being accommodated in a large cruise ship moored in Falmouth harbour near the National Maritime Museum (NMM), host to the hundreds of international media representatives. The NMM was, of course, MEI's scheduled venue for last months Biomining '21 and Sustainable Minerals '21, which  were held online due to the pandemic. The cost of policing the summit has been put at £70 million.

The MS Silja Europa and Maritime Museum viewed from Falmouth's inner harbour

Joining the thousands of police officers were hundreds of British troops, including bomb disposal teams and a navy warship, a 400 strong US Secret Service team, and a number of patrol vessels and rigid inflatable boats to help with surveillance. 

HMS Tyne trying hard to blend in to the scene behind picturesque St Ives
Photo: Greg Martin @photogregmartin

Cartoon: Matt-The Telegraph

Falmouth is 24 miles from Carbis Bay, but walking through town was a surreal and unforgettable experience, with a huge police presence, some heavily armed. However, they were without exception friendly and chatty and impressed by the beauty of Falmouth and its coastline.

Officers from Yorkshire take a break by the Fal Estuary at Pendennis Headland

Falmouth was also one of the centres for the various demonstrations that always take place during G7 meetings, and there were large gatherings highlighting the injustices in Myanmar and the Tigray province of Ethiopia.
Demonstrators from Myanmar
Demonstrators from Tigray

The biggest demonstration by far was by Extinction Rebellion, who certainly highlight some of the many problems facing the world, although their methods do not always endear them to the public. Their demands for achieving global zero carbon are also unrealistic, and like many of the public they seem unaware of the importance of mining to produce the raw materials needed for the green revolution (Is zero carbon by 2050 attainable?). Those that I spoke to had never heard of rare earth metals such as neodymium and were sceptical when I told them that in the last 5,000 years, humans produced about 550m tons of copper, but will need to produce that much again in the next 25 years to satisfy the Paris Agreement.

Extinction Rebellion in Falmouth's Kimberley Park
Spreading the word and the virus
Photo: Greg Martin

The Importance of Mining to Society was the subject of a one hour event hosted by the Critical Minerals Association held in Falmouth on the first day of G7. Hosted by Jeff Townsend, the co-founder of CMA, and son of Ian Townsend, well known by many in the mining industry, the speakers were Dr. Lucy Crane, Chair of CMA Perception of Mining Group and Senior Geologist at Cornish Lithium, and John Murray, Founding Principal of the Swann Group, UK.

The message was that we need to change our relationship with society to show the value that we can add to a greener society. There was little in the event that we in our small minerals industry bubble are not already aware of, but the importance of this meeting was that it was part of the G7 weekend and was attended or relayed to the international journalists present in Falmouth, so hopefully they were listening and will make use of it to get the message out that mining is essential. The recording of the live streamed event is available

Meanwhile Covid cases in England were rising at the fastest rate since the winter wave, over 90% of cases being due to the Delta variant first discovered in India. By the middle of the month it was evident that the G7 summit was a super spreading event for Cornwall, cases rocketing 2,450% in areas of Cornwall where G7 events were focused. The area around Carbis Bay, where the summit took place, and Falmouth, where the world’s media were based along with many of the officers policing the event and protesters, are now suffering some of the highest rates of infection in the country, these areas now accounting for more than half of all the infections in Cornwall. The rate of Covid-19 infections in Cornwall during the week to, and including, 13 June rose from 2.8 per 100,000 people on the Sunday before G7 began to 81.7 per 100,000. This compares to a national average of 77.4 per 100,000. 

The rate of infection in St Ives rose 2,450 per cent in the seven day period to 733.2 per 100,000 people in those seven days and in a number of Falmouth districts the rates were more than 500 per 100,000, with Falmouth East hit by a 2,000 per cent rise in infections to 600 per 100,000. The largely unvaccinated young staff in the Cornish hospitality businesses are catching the Delta variant and they and their colleagues are having to isolate as a result. This is closing down pubs, bars and hotels at an alarming rate. 

The Cornish people have not been too impressed with our buffoon of a Prime Minister's hypocritical socially distanced greetings to other G7 leaders and the lack of social distancing at other events:

Photos: BBC

It was no great surprise that, the day after the G7 summit, Boris Johnson announced that the planned complete removal of Coronavirus restrictions on June 21st would be put on hold for a further 4 weeks to allow more of the population to be fully vaccinated. Over 60% of adults in UK are now fully vaccinated, which is an amazing achievement by the NHS. The challenge now is for the G7 leaders to make good their promises of donating vaccines to the poorer nations of the world, as we won't be out of this pandemic until all the world is vaccinated.



  1. Thanks Barry, I do hope the world is listening - so the world understands the critical importance of mining and that we ALL must continue to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
    Ross Milne, Dassault Systèmes, UK

  2. For a brief moment there Barry, I thought you were one of the officers from Yorkshire! Joke :) But on a more serious note, I found your review both interesting and sobering. Clearly there is a long road ahead in connecting green aspirations with the realities of how to get there!

    1. That's no joke Franklin- I'm from Lancashire!

    2. Oops! Sorry, but the young guy in the photo looks a bit like you.

  3. Another good summary, Barry, better than reading the newspapers! The Covid spike after the conference didn't surprise me at all. I hate to say this, but at the moment I'm pleased to be 350 miles away. Looking forward to a Sundowner when things have settled down.
    Sam Wood


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