March 2020
Volume 72    Issue 3

Geopolitical risk assessment of countries with deposits of rare earth elements

Kamenopoulos, Sotiris N.; Agioutantis, Zach


Rare earth elements (REEs) are considered critical minerals for the industrial and defense sectors. In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior presented the final list of critical minerals that are vital to the U.S. economy and defense [1], which included REEs among other mineral commodities. REEs are not rare, despite their name, but economically viable deposits of REEs can be found only in certain geographical areas, and the political and social conditions characterizing these areas may not always be in favor of mining operations. Mining operations may be placed in great operational and financial risk if operations are planned in such areas. Erroneous decisions by decision makers may lead to a chain of events that can completely shut down a mining project. 

  Knowledge of the potential geopolitical risks prior to any decision making is fundamental for bank executives, investors, board members, shareholders and government officials. Entrepreneurs, market participants and central bank officials view geopolitical risks as key determinants of investment decisions and stock-market dynamics. As a result, before planning for a mining project and prior to any decision making, geopolitical constraints should be carefully evaluated. Sustainable mining practices of REE deposits should incorporate geopolitical factors in addition to the three sustainability pillars: economic, environmental and social.
  In 2015, a geopolitical risk assessment survey was presented for geographical areas that feature REE deposits [2]. The current study presents the 2019 version of the 2015 geopolitical risk assessment and tries to identify probable assessment differences between 2015 and 2019. This information is provided in a coherent ranking method, and the results of the proposed country ranking are presented on a world map (Fig. 1).
  The map and the ranking may be used as useful prediction tools that identify potential geopolitical risk areas related to the presence of critical mineral resources such as REEs. The map itself is an indicator and a decision support tool for multiple stakeholders such as policy makers, decision makers and mining companies.
Full-text paper:
Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2020) 37:51–63,


Follow these easy steps if you are an SME member:
  • Go to . Sign in with your email address and password.
  • Hover your mouse over “Publications and Resourcesâ€� in the top banner. Click on “Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (MME) Journalâ€� in the pull-down menu.
  • Scroll down and click on the “Read the MME Journal Onlineâ€� button, which will take you to the Springer site as an SME member who is eligible for free access. (To see published papers on the Springer site, click on “Browse Volumes & Issuesâ€� in the blue banner.)
If you are not an SME member, go to for paid access. Or join SME at