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Economy (Spotlight Brief 3/21)

The content in this article is an extract of Spotlight Brief 3/21.

The Geopolitics of Critical Minerals Supply Chains

Center for Strategic & International Studies – Mar 21

Modern society, and militaries, are dependent on rare and critical minerals that make up our electric generation and storage, computers, magnets, lasers and other essential equipment. Unlike the fossil fuels that were vital to the industrial age, the mineral required for the digital and quantum age minerals are much more constrained geographically. Increasing strategic tensions signal that the concentration of the bulk within any one nation poses significant national-security concerns.  In this report, Jane Nakano compares American, European Union and Japanese concerns and responses. While Australia is seeing the growth of our own rare earth industry, we cannot afford complacency regarding these critical minerals and access to them becoming as source of further tensions.


‘The US is worried about its critical minerals supply chains – essential for electric vehicles, wind power and the nation’s defense’, The Conversation, 06 Apr 21

‘Rare earths and critical minerals provide significant opportunities for Australia‘, CSIRO, 19 Mar 21

‘Insight - Australia: A reliable supplier of critical minerals’, Australian Trade and Investment Commission, 26 Feb 21

‘Explainer: Possible impact of Myanmar coup on China's metal and rare earth supply‘, Reuters, 10 Feb 21

‘Rare earths are getting rarer – China pushes for tighter control over critical minerals’, Stockhead, 21 Jan 21

Performance Assessment of the Semiconductor Industry: Measured by DEA Environmental Assessment

energies – Nov 20

The semiconductor chip lies at the heart of future defence acquisitions, their integration and the West’s anticipated way of war. They are ubiquitous in the modern world, in essential key pillars of contemporary life from 5G networks to coffee makers. While their ubiquity has almost hidden their range of uses (‘hiding in plain sight’ as it were), recent events has seen a significant shortage of them. A common manifestation of this shortage in Australia recently is the long lead times to acquire new automobiles. This article, while a little esoteric, ranks major semiconductor firms by efficiency and environmental sustainability. Such information may be of assistance in helping securing our supply chains, identify key partner nations for acquisition purposes, or to support the domestic growth of a sovereign industry in order to try and insulate the ADF from future shocks.


‘Peugeot Goes Old School To Deal With The Chip Shortage’, Jalopnik, 22 Apr 21

‘Semiconductor Shortages End an Era of Globalization’, JSTOR Daily, 08 Apr 21

‘How a Chip Shortage Snarled Everything From Phones to Cars’, Bloomberg, 29 Mar 21

‘The US Needs A Strategy To Secure Microelectronics – Not Just Funding’, Breaking Defense, 15 Mar 21

‘Car chip shortage shines light on fragility of US supply chain’, Financial Times, 24 Feb 21

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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