What Are The Major Natural Resources Of The United Kingdom?

Sheep farm in Devon, England, UK.
Sheep farm in Devon, England, UK.

The United Kingdom (UK) is an island nation found off the northwest coast of continental Europe, and it is bordered only by the Republic of Ireland, while other parts of the country are bordered by the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean, the Celtic Sea, and the North Sea. The country is the 12th nation with the longest coastline in the world, and the country covers a land area of 93,600 square miles. The UK is, therefore, the world’s 78th largest country by area and ranks as the 22nd with the highest population in the world having a population of about 66 million people as of 2017. The country has numerous natural resources such as arable land, petroleum, coal, and other minerals such as zinc, lead, iron ore, salt, limestone, potash gypsum, clay, silica, and chalk among others.

Natural Resources

Arable Land

In the UK about 69% of the total land area is utilized for agriculture, and about 1.5% of the country's labor force or 476,000 people are engaged in agriculture and its related activities. The country produces not more than 60% of the food consumed in the country and is mostly in rural parts of the East Anglia where most crops are cultivated while the southwest part of the country produces mainly livestock. There are about 212,000 farms in the UK which vary in size from less than 20 hectares to more than 100 hectares. Farm earnings in the UK are relatively low as a result of low prices at the farm gate despite the country having skill farmers, fertile soils, subsidies from the government, and sophisticated technology. As a result of the low earnings and exorbitantly high prices of land, coupled with a shortage of farms to lease, has discouraged young people from joining the farming industry, and the average age of a farmer in the UK is currently about 59 years.

Some of the principal crops cultivated in the UK include wheat, potatoes, oats, barley, sugar beets, fruits, and vegetables. Wheat in the UK is by far the largest agricultural crop cultivated, and it is grown on approximately 1.9 million hectares of land. Wheat production in the UK is centered on the eastern region of England, which accounts for about 58% of the wheat produced in the UK. The total annual production of wheat in the UK varies significantly depending primarily on climate, but typically it varies from 11 million to 18 million tones yearly. Wheat used primarily in animal feeds yields approximately 8.5 tons per hectare while wheat used to make bread produce slightly lower yield standing at about 7.8 tons per hectare. In 2018, wheat production in the UK dropped 5.1% compared with the previous year while barley production dropped by about 7.9%. The drop in the two crops is attributed to the high rainfall during spring time which was followed again by long, drier summer which led to a huge drop in crop production across the country.


Mining in the UK has a long history particularly of non-ferrous minerals like tin and copper which has been mined from the era of the Bronze Age. Copper mining in the UK was carried out in Wales in about 2200-850 BCE. Some of the minerals that later attracted the Romans to Britain include gold, copper, and lead and it was the Romans who first introduced the use of iron tools. They used slave labor to extract galena, which is the main lead ore mineral. The Galena mineral was later processed and refined to get silver, tin, and lead. These refined metals were transported the different parts of the Roman Empire, and some were used locally. Most of the mines where they got the galena were in deep pits, particularly in Wales and Scotland. Iron ore and coal were the most important minerals particularly during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. However, less iron ore and coal are mined in the UK today. To this day the UK has numerous minerals, but few are currently mined in the country because of factors such as globalization which has made it cheaper to import minerals from other countries. For instance, the country has deposits of copper and iron ore, but they are imported from other countries like the United States, Chile, China, Brazil, and Australia.

Oil and Natural Gas

In 2014, the UK produced about 1.42 million Barrels of Oil Equivalents (BOE) every day, which is the unit of energy derived from the average energy released from 1 barrel of crude oil, and out of this 59% were oil or liquids. The United Kingdom consumed about 1.508 million barrels of oil per day in 2013 and about 2.735 trillion cubic feet of gas. Currently, the country is importing hydrocarbons, although it has been exporting the commodity from the 1980s to 1990s. For a long time, gas was produced in the Southern North Sea in the Morecambe Bay, but presently there has been a decline. In the recent past, there have been discoveries in regions with the most challenge especially in the west of Shetland. By 2012, there were approximately 9,774 miles of pipeline that connected about 113 oil installations and about 189 different gas installations. Most of the oil produced is onshore, and the major offshore field is located in Dorset in Wytch Farm. There has been the significant potential of shale in Bowland shale and Wealand, but only a few have been drilled so far.

The Economy of the UK

The UK is a highly developed country. The famous industrial revolution began in the UK, and the initial industry was textile followed by other industries like shipbuilding, mining of coal, and steel making among others.

Presently, the UK has the world’s 5th largest economy and Europe’s second-largest economy. The service sector accounts for about 29% of the GDP, and the capital city, London is among the three leading centers of the global economy, the others being Tokyo and New York. Tourism plays a critical part in the economy of the UK, and more than 27 million visitors arrived in the country in 2004. The UK was ranked as the major tourist destination in the world and London had the highest international visitor arrivals in the whole world. 

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the economy of the UK growth rate was modest in 2018 at around 1.3%, and they projected that the economy in 2019 would grow by about 1.6%. This outlook reflects the slow on investments and the continuing political indecision as it relates to the resulting outcome of the Brexit consultation. However, the announced increase in government spending and tax cuts in the short- run in the budget would provide a major boost to the economic expansion in 2019. The strengthening world economy coupled with the country’s competitive currency has encouraged the UK's export and boosted tourism particularly in the last two years. The service sector is expected to be modest in 2019 while the manufacturing sector is expected to slow down.


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