Science Matters: The Case of Rare Earth Elements

Producers Group: You are a Director of an International Mining Company

Your Background and Biography

Your father instilled in you the guiding principles of how to run a business responsibly and sustainably, as exemplified by his own palm oil production company. While many palm oil plantations are established on what was once protected rainforest land, the family business focused on sustainably produced palm oil and was committed to engaging local communities, zero deforestation, and full financial transparency. The company was able to maintain a healthy cash flow through shrewd negotiations, minimizing corporate expenditures, and identifying select vendors and customers who were willing to pay more for a responsibly sourced product.

After receiving an MBA from Oxford University, you started your professional career as a management consultant and later became a marketing director. With 25 years in the game you have proven yourself to be a principled business leader who can identify specialized markets, manage people with finesse, and consistently make a profit. Your skill set attracted the attention of a faltering mining company that specializes in producing rare earth metals.

You became the CEO of a company that mines ore in Australia, refines it to produce rare earth oxides in Malaysia, and sells those metals to manufacturers around the world. Your company is one of the only producers of rare earth metals that do not come from China. However, your company’s refinery is in danger of being closed down by the Malaysian government. A Japanese company that once ran a nearby rare earths refinery scattered radioactive waste in the 1980s, setting off a long battle over rare earth production between businesses and local environmental and health activists.

Today, you hope to stabilize your company by pushing the entire rare earth industry to become greener. If consumers and manufacturers could be convinced to pay a higher price for sustainably produced rare earths, you could meet your environmental obligations while still making a profit. In the Sustainability Seal you are advocating for provisions for responsible waste and water management, with a particular focus on radioactive waste, and a low carbon footprint.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Stewardship Council to include the Producers Group’s recommendations in its final Sustainability Seal guiding values. To make this argument effectively, you must do the following:

  • Complete the assigned readings listed at the bottom of this page.

  • Work closely with the other members of your group to develop clear answers to the Stewardship Council’s questions.

  • Use as much specific information as possible to develop strong arguments for your position that the price of sustainably certified rare earth metals needs to cover the true cost of production and environmental protection, and investment in innovative production methods should be promoted to reduce social and environmental harms.

  • Read as much as you can about your position and the positions of the other groups.

  • Complete written reflections on your character, interest group, and readings as assigned.

Your Victory Objectives

  • You will receive 10 points if the Stewards select your group’s proposal as the final Sustainability Seal guiding values.

  • The Stewards will rank the interest groups by how well their goals are represented in the final Sustainability Seal guiding values. You will receive between 1 and 4 points based on how the Producers Group is ranked and how well the Sustainability Seal guiding values reflect your goals.

SOURCES

Group Sources

Individual Sources

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