Essay in NBR Special Report 102
Building Resilient Critical Mineral Supply Chains
Lessons from Japan and South Korea
This essay considers Japanese and South Korean critical mineral policies and assesses how they may be appropriate or adaptable for the United States.
The world needs more resilient critical mineral supply chains. One shared risk to resilience for many critical minerals is geographic concentration in the mining or midstream processing of materials. Japan and South Korea are both early and proactive movers to diversify and expand their critical mineral supply chains. Under the guidance of government ministries and active financial, technical, and logistical support from specialized government organizations, Japanese and South Korean firms have formed private-public partnerships to expand critical mineral supply chains around the world, decreasing their vulnerability to manufacturing chokepoints.
Given profound differences in the political institutional context, there are three policy lessons that the U.S. can learn from the experience of Japan’s and South Korea’s more state-led approach:
- Australia is a key partner, with rich resource endowments, technical expertise, and transparent and reliable governance. The U.S. should proactively expand existing partnerships and seek new ones.
- Buy-in from and cooperation with the private sector are key to the success of government-led ventures, and any U.S. administration must be sure to consult with the private sector as well as other key stakeholders in local communities.
- Critical mineral projects have high rates of failure and a lengthy time horizon before success. The U.S. must be prepared to follow through on long-term projects even in the face of challenges.
Kristin Vekasi is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the School of Policy and International Affairs at the University of Maine.