Countries are rapidly moving to secure a critical minerals value chain which includes exploring uncharted territories and mining endeavors to uncover the full extent of their mineral resources, we need to focus on societal growth. Therefore, it’s critical that these efforts follow an inclusive approach that not only cultivates societal buy-in and trust of the mining communities but also precludes conflicts, forming an indispensable bedrock for sustainable expansion. This alignment is achieved through creating spaces for conversation that can eventually be translated to policies, legal frameworks, and advocacy for strategies prioritizing social and environmental justice considerations.
To this end, Swaniti Global recently organized a Global Conversation on Critical Minerals on September 28, 2023, with the objective of understanding the policies and strategies countries are following to drive responsible value chains of critical minerals. The panel delved into a number of the complexities within the sector, offering insights into regional experiences, best practices, legislations/laws, community engagement strategies, and international agreements and stakeholder collaborations. The discussion, titled ‘Strategies for Responsible Critical Minerals Supply Chain’ brought together a distinguished global panel of diverse stakeholders from Australia, the European Union, India, and the United States.
Discussants underscored that the process of ensuring a continuous supply of critical minerals must be carried out in a manner that gives precedence to environmental preservation, fair economic development, and responsible governance. There is a need for a comprehensive strategy, encompassing regulatory measures to stimulate competition, financial support for new market players, enhanced community engagement, transparency, and the promotion of open standards and interoperability across the critical minerals supply chain.
Key takeaways from the conversation include:
Accelerated International Cooperation: In light of the growing geopolitically charged global environment, addressing the growing trust deficit among various stakeholders in the mineral industry is paramount. With minerals scattered around the world yet concentrated among a handful of geographies, countries need a much more effective and deepened internationally coordinated diplomacy effort to secure a constant supply of critical minerals that are responsibly explored, mined, processed, and recycled. Coordinated efforts between policymakers, industry players, investors, communities, and the private sector are indispensable for transparency and confidence-building that expedite the transition process.
Need for Global South-led cooperation efforts: While there has been a surge in international initiatives, these efforts have been predominantly led by the Global North. Considering future demand and supply of materials projected to be dominated by the Global South, there is a need for a collaborative effort led by the Global South between the two. Moreover, fostering a deeper South-South engagement becomes imperative to drive a firm commitment to responsible practices throughout the critical minerals value chain.
Harmonized Global Standards for Critical Minerals: There is a need to create a level-playing
field for responsible countries to compete effectively by standardizing equitable global Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards and principles across the critical
minerals value chain. Particularly in the Global South, where a significant portion of mineral
extraction occurs, support and guidance are crucial for these countries to align with international
Enhanced Community Engagement: A unanimous consensus emerged on the central role of
communities directly affected by mineral activities and/or initiatives. Effective coordination
between central and local governments, along with legislative bodies representing communities
– predominantly indigenous communities, is vital. Acknowledging and incorporating the interests
of these communities in decision-making processes can pave the way for a smoother transition.
Conversely, neglecting their concerns could impede progress significantly. Therefore, an
enhanced outreach strategy is essential to garner support from both communities and countries
Enhanced local implementation and monitoring efforts: While policies are being drafted, it
is equally crucial to ensure their rigorous implementation and on-ground monitoring. State and
local authorities need support through capacity building and technical assistance initiatives to
facilitate the responsible practices of mining.
Downstream Processes – the missing link: The discussion highlighted the urgent requirement
to diversify downstream value streams, encompassing mineral processing, refining,
manufacturing, and recycling. Simply extracting minerals falls short of addressing the intricate
puzzle of critical minerals; it is imperative to prioritize research, development, and investments
in processing capabilities. The key lies in fostering increased collaboration among governments,
industries, and the private sector. As a fundamental design principle, a comprehensive life cycle
assessment is proposed to identify and mitigate environmental and social impacts at every