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The Geopolitics of Critical Minerals

October 24, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Critical minerals and rare earths are a global priority. They are essential for high-tech industries, from defence to renewable energy technologies. As demand for these materials surges, so too has the strategic importance of securing a stable supply. China currently controls a significant portion of the world’s production, processing, and technology development. The US and the European Union are rapidly attempting to diversify their access to these materials by investing in domestic production or forging international partnerships. Major mining powers such as Canada, Brazil, Chile, and Australia are reviewing their strategies, albeit from different vantage points.

The seminar will review the geopolitics of critical minerals and rare earths. Professor of Geography and rare earth expert, Dr. Julie Klinger, will examine the outsized influence of China and its role in extracting and processing materials from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Acclaimed journalist and director of IWM, Misha Glenny, will reflect on the ways nations and corporations are scrambling to ensure a reliable supply while minimizing their vulnerabilities. King’s College scholar, Dr. Nicholas Pope, will home in on the case of Brazil, offering insights from a new study on critical minerals published by the Igarapé Institute. The event will be moderated by Dr. Robert Muggah, founder of the Igarapé Institute and SecDev.

About the panelists

Dr. Julie Michelle Klinger (she/her) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences at the University of Delaware, Principal Investigator or co-PI on four major grants concerning energy-critical mineral supply chains or outer space technologies, and a member of the International Standards Organization Technical Advisory Group 298: Rare Earth
Supply Chain Transparency and Traceability. She has published numerous articles on rare earth elements, natural resource use, environmental politics, and outer space, including the award-winning 2018 book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes.

Misha Glenny (he/him) is an award-winning journalist and currently director of the IWM in Vienna. He was previously BBC’s Central Europe Correspondent covering the 1989 revolutions and the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The author of several internationally acclaimed books – notably McMafia and Dark Markets – Glenny is regularly consulted by governments and law enforcement agencies in Europe and the Americas on the Balkans and Eastern Europe on trans-national organised crime and on cyber security. He is also a regular contributor to major publications in Europe, North America and Japan. Building on a recent BBC series reviewing the political economy of rare earths around the world, Glenny is currently developing a major project on the geopolitics of critical minerals.

Dr. Nicholas Pope is a Research Associate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and works in the areas of international development, peace and conflict, political economy and geography. His research examines armed groups in frontier regions, with a focus in Latin America and Central and Southeast Asia. His current project studies the social and ecological risks of informal mining practices linked to the rising demand for critical minerals needed for the green transition.

About the panel chair

Dr. Robert Muggah is a specialist in public and digital security, the future of cities and climate resilience. Dr. Muggah is co-founder of the SecDev Group – a cybersecurity and digital risk firm focused on using data-driven analytics and artificial intelligence to solve complex challenges. He also co-founded the Igarapé Institute – a think tank focused on citizen, digital and climate security. The author of eight books and hundreds of articles, Dr. Muggah advises national and subnational governments, technology companies and organizations. He advises several technology start-ups including on issues of nature-based solutions. He has recently led research into the spatial and geopolitical dimensions of critical minerals in East Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. He received a DPhil from the University of Oxford.


October 24, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
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Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON Canada
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