Opinion & Analysis

The good, the bad and the ugly: resource nationalism, geopolitics and processing strategic minerals in Indonesia, South Africa and Malaysia

Strategic minerals are essential to the modern-day technologies that enable the digital transition, decarbonisation, and the development of advanced military systems. However, their extraction and processing is concentrated in a handful of countries, creating concerns about security of supply.

This study focuses on the dynamics shaping the resource policies of states that play a key role in the processing of strategic minerals. We have looked at the processing of three strategic metals in three countries:

  • Nickel in Indonesia
  • Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) in South Africa
  • Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in Malaysia

Are these states pursuing policies that undermine Europe’s security of supply? What policies are the US and China pursuing regarding these minerals and these countries? And what does this mean for European efforts to reduce unwanted economic dependencies?

All three countries play an important role in the processing of strategic minerals, but in different ways. Instead of only looking at the global market share that these countries have for processing a strategic mineral, it is necessary to go a level deeper. The cases demonstrate the relevance of understanding the domestic economic, social and environmental dynamics shaping a government’s resource policies. The domestic market composition of the minerals processing sector, in particular, stands out as a key feature to understand the degree to which these countries pose economic security risks. It also offers important insights into the steps European countries can take to secure their supply of strategic minerals.

About the Authors:

Rem Korteweg is Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute. He works on Europe’s strategic role in the world, with a specific focus on the intersection between foreign policy, trade and security issues. 

Vera Kranenburg is a Research Fellow at the Clingendael China Centre and the Secretary of the Dutch China Knowledge Network. Her work focuses on Chinese foreign relations and European China policy.

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