The Case of Rare Earth Elements: Stewards


The goal of the Stewardship Council is to create a Sustainability Seal for the mining, production, and use of rare earth elements. Experts in various fields have been invited to weigh in on what this seal should include. You have released a draft of the Guiding Values, and now you will hear feedback from stakeholders on all sides. You will listen to their arguments and select the Guiding Values that are most practical and effective.

Carefully read the Rare Earth Sustainability Seal Guiding Values, which you have released for public comment, so you can identify the changes proposed by each group and address their concerns and suggestions. Then review the following questions, which you will ask each group during the Summit before developing questions of your own:

  • The mining and production of rare earth elements can result in intense and long-lasting water and soil pollution, yet these elements are in high demand for countless modern technologies. Are there truly sustainable methods for mining and using rare earth elements? How can cleaner but more costly forms of production compete with cheaper mining operations and illegal smuggling? Who in the production cycle of rare earths should bear the burden of evaluating and minimizing environmental impact?
  • Great strides have been made in the effort to efficiently recycle rare earth elements, but the science behind these technologies is still being tested and existing methods are not widely implemented. Is it possible to prioritize recycling and reuse in the demand for rare earths? What is the most effective way to create incentives for recycling and reuse to reduce new production?
  • The goal of this Summit is to create a Sustainability Seal for the mining, production, and use of rare earth elements. What are the critical factors that must be addressed when discussing the sustainability of rare earths? What are the biggest obstacles to making rare earth elements a sustainable resource? What new problems might result from the creation of this seal?
  • What historical examples and evidence provide useful lessons about the successes or failures of addressing the impact and implications of our use of rare earth elements?
  • Do the problems caused by our use of rare earth elements outweigh the benefits that they provide?

Steward Roles

Playing Guide

What Is a Steward?

In The Case of Rare Earth Elements, the Stewards are representatives elected to a Stewardship Council responsible for determining a set of guiding values for a new Sustainability Seal addressing the issues surrounding the mining, production, and consumption of rare earth elements. As a Steward you must ensure that the final set of guiding values addresses the problem in a practical, manageable way. 

In order to consider as many opinions as possible, the Stewardship Council has convened a Summit of rare earth element experts. During the Summit you will ask questions and gather information to determine what will ensure the best set of guiding values. Without a clear opinion about what is best, you are ready to be persuaded by the experts. 

It is important that as one of the decision makers, you gather as much information as possible throughout the game so you can make well-reasoned judgments and pick the best regulation proposal.

The Role of the Steward


When you received your role assignment, you were also assigned an interest group. You must become an expert on this interest group. Review the group’s goals and recommendations, read about its positions, and attend its meetings strictly as an observer. Before the Summit you will meet with the other Stewards to share what you have learned and prepare the questions you will ask.


  • Write two questions you want to ask your assigned interest group during the Summit
  • Write a one-page analysis of your assigned group’s main arguments


Your primary goal during the Summit is to moderate a discussion among the interest groups and to learn as much as possible about all of the groups and their arguments. Begin with the questions in the Student Introduction, asking groups to clarify their responses as necessary. Then proceed to the questions written by you and the other Stewards. Although these questions are directed to specific interest groups, encourage the other groups to respond as well.


You will observe the working groups as they prepare their proposals. Listen closely to their ideas, and prepare questions for the Debate but do not participate in their discussion.


In this final section of the game each group will present its proposal for the Sustainability Seal guiding values, and you will ask questions about each proposed regulation. When the Debate concludes, you will vote on which proposal to accept for the final set of guiding values. You will also determine which of the four interest groups made the strongest contributions to the winning Sustainability Seal by ranking them in order. Points will be awarded for the winning proposal and to each interest group based on their ranking.

Case Study


Assigned Readings & Other Sources


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