CSIS Launches Project on Critical Minerals Security

Washington, DC – April 17, 2024 – The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) today launched the Project on Critical Minerals Security, a groundbreaking initiative to provide leadership as the United States races to build the resilient minerals supply chains needed for national, economic, and energy security. The Project on Critical Minerals Security will be housed within the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at CSIS and led by Dr. Gracelin Baskaran, one of the country’s foremost experts on critical minerals policy.

The United States Critical Minerals List encompasses 50 mineral commodities that are essential to economic and national security, and yet are vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. For 43 of these critical minerals, the United States imports more than half of its supply, with China playing a dominant role in more than half of them. This dependency, highlighted by state interventions and export controls, has spurred a bipartisan sense of urgency to increase U.S. security for these critical inputs. Furthermore, increasing demand driven by the energy transition is poised to increase competition for vital resources such as copper, graphite, nickel, and rare earth elements.

The Project on Critical Minerals Security will build upon CSIS’s longstanding work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle in order to support market-led efforts to expand production, processing, and recycling capacities to improve domestic and global security. The Project will also convene a diverse collection of stakeholders—including leaders from the mining and finance sectors, as well as environmental and social organizations—to develop sound policy proposals to enhance the economic and national security of the United States and its allies.

The Project on Critical Minerals Security will take a global approach, considering both domestic and international efforts to build resilience. While domestic production is an obvious solution for minerals security, minerals resources are not universally available. The United States holds less than 1 percent of the world’s graphite, nickel, and cobalt reserves and 1.3 percent of its rare earths. The Project will work with policymakers around the world, particularly in the Global South, to identify innovative approaches to create a more mutually beneficial model of mineral supply chain development through commercial diplomacy.

“Critical minerals stand out as a principal policy challenge of our day. The establishment of broader, more resilient supply chains for critical minerals promises not just a safeguard for the energy transition and U.S. national security, but a new vision of American leadership in the world,” said Dr. Joseph Majkut, Director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at CSIS. “The establishment of this project, building on the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ legacy at the forefront of U.S. energy security strategy, and Dr. Baskaran’s appointment to spearhead it, are not just welcome; this is a call to action for Washington that echoes with promise for our future.”

As inaugural director of the Project, Dr. Baskaran will lead a collaborative effort that capitalizes on expertise across CSIS’s programs to examine the economics, geopolitics, and sustainability of critical minerals security across the world. Dr. Baskaran, who joined CSIS in 2023 as Research Director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program, is a mining economist and has spent 11 years working on minerals policy, emerging markets, and trade. She previously spent five years at the World Bank in South Africa, where she coauthored the book Africa’s Resource Future: Harnessing Natural Resources for Economic Transformation during the Low-Carbon Transition. She is currently writing a policy playbook on developing a U.S. critical minerals strategy.

Dr. Baskaran began her career in South Africa’s platinum belt. Her expertise and research have been cited by The Washington Post, Politico, Bloomberg, Foreign Policy, Fox News, Energy Intelligence, and the U.S. International Trade Commission, among others. She is a regular speaker at leading international mining and energy conferences, universities, and policymaker forums, and she frequently briefs Congress. Dr. Baskaran holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

“I am honored to lead the Project on Critical Minerals Security at CSIS at this important moment in history. Having lived and worked both in a mining town and in the heart of Washington, DC, I am acutely aware of the complexities of mining—economically, politically, socially, and environmentally. But I am confident that working collaboratively with governments and the private sector can strengthen minerals security for the United States and its allies, while bringing economic benefits to resource-rich countries,” Baskaran said. “I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work with Congress and mining sector leaders to advance innovative and sensible solutions to building critical minerals security for the United States and its allies. Failure to do so is jeopardizing our national security and energy needs at a time when geopolitical adversaries are outpacing us.”

In addition to her role as Director of the Project on Critical Minerals Security, Dr. Baskaran will serve as a senior fellow with the Energy Security and Climate Change program.

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The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to advancing practical ideas to address the world’s greatest challenges.