The Newsletter 96 Autumn 2023

Green Industrial Policy in the Age of Rare Metals (GRIP-ARM)

Jewellord (Jojo) Nem Singh

The ERC-funded study “Green Industrial Policy in the Age of Rare Metals: A Transregional Comparison of Growth Strategies in Rare Earth Mining” (GRIP-ARM) examines the globalized supply and demand for rare earths – including mining, processing, manufacturing, use, and recycling – to have a closer scrutiny of mining both as a strategy for industrialization and as an integral part of contemporary efforts towards a sustainable supply of raw materials.

GRIP-ARM interrogates the dynamics in rare earth mining that might lend this particular resource a tool for economic development. The research is one of the first systematic, comparative studies on rare earths mining and economic development, which brings political science perspectives in conversation with natural resource geography and international political economy. Using a trans-regional comparison of China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan, the GRIP-ARM project began in 2021 and spans across five years.

The study has three primary objectives: (1) To empirically document how mineral states design industrial policies that have the potential to link extraction and manufacturing sectors of the economy. It will also explore why similar policies yield varying outcomes. (2) Identify the political factors that successfully built linkages between sectors of the economy, spur technological innovation, and maximize benefits from extractive industries. (3) Analyze new initiatives of rare earth importers in the EU and Japan. The project provides insights on how importing countries and their manufacturing firms have promoted ways to address long-term supply vulnerability and sustainability of resource use.

Low and middle-income countries joining the race for industrialization are increasing demands for high-tech goods ranging from computers, mobile phones, and flat screens, as well as for low-carbon consumer products, such as energy-efficient cars, solar panels, wind turbines, and even lights – all of which constitute further pressures to accelerate the pace and breadth of natural resource exploitation. Moreover, growing demands for rare earths are currently suffering from a supply constraint given that China – the dominant market player in rare earths mining – has begun to impose export restrictions and reorient its mining policy to support domestic industrialization. The impending resource crunch creates incentives for mineral states to gain strategic and economic advantage.

GRIP-ARM’s agenda is especially salient as several rare earth projects are being developed in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to create an alternative supply chain outside China. By building an interdisciplinary scholarship on rare earths-based growth strategies, GRIP-ARM contributes to scholarship on innovations in non-traditional manufacturing sectors as key to long-run economic development.

Another crucial element of the project is that it will create valuable knowledge for the Global Rare Earths Industry Association, which provides inputs on global efforts to create a secured, greener supply of critical raw materials. The study will add to knowledge on how developing countries can seek to build industrial capacity to extract in less environmentally destructive ways. In these ways, the research contributes to the urgent call of designing growth strategies compatible with ecological sustainability.


Coordinator: Jewellord Nem Singh