Southeast Asia’s potential in critical minerals – by Han Phoumin (Australian Strategic Policy Institute – April 15, 2024)

Global critical mineral demand is expected to increase dramatically in coming decades, from a 7.1 million tonnes in 2020 to 42.3 million tonnes in 2050. Global commitments to decarbonisation are the main drivers of this growth, because clean-energy technologies depend on large quantities of critical minerals. But all manner of sophisticated industries, including defence manufacturing, will also compete for these materials.

Secure and reliable critical mineral supply chains will be vital for energy transition. The supply chains are the secret to scaling up installation of wind turbines, advanced batteries, electrolysers and clean-energy grids.

Southeast Asia has significant natural reserves of several key critical minerals, including nickel, tin, rare-earth elements (REEs) and bauxite, and the region is still not fully explored for more of them. But establishing downstream processing of the materials in Southeast Asia is a great challenge, especially if high environmental standards are to be met.

To turn itself into a hub of critical minerals supply, the region will need help from countries that are experienced in the field, such as Australia, India, Japan, the United States, China and European nations.

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