Powering the Future: Digging into Critical Minerals, Supply Chains, and the Energy Transition

Mining is mission-critical to addressing the climate crisis. And so is confronting the legal and environmental issues surrounding mineral extraction. 

Jurisdictions across the globe are racing to transform their energy sources to meet decarbonization goals and transition away from fossil fuels. This energy transition depends on a robust and reliable supply of critical minerals, which must be mined, processed, and distributed in ways that often create environmental and health risks, and in the process can reshape global political dynamics. 

The Emmett Institute’s 2024 symposium will explore the wide range of pressing issues raised by this ever-expanding need for critical minerals. Our moderators and panelists from around the world will confront the policy drivers of this energy transition; governance questions related to supply chains; the rise of resource nationalism with its implications for the U.S. and the global order; and the risks to communities created by critical minerals mining and ways to reduce those risks. 

Join us Friday, March 8 at the UCLA School of Law for an all-day exploration of these topics through a keynote address and three panel discussions. UCLA School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. This session has requested MCLE credit and is currently pending approval. RSVP at this link.

Confirmed Speakers

Keynote Address:

Secretary Christina Snider-Ashtari, Tribal Affairs Secretary for California

Luncheon Keynote:

David Hochschild, Chair of the California Energy Commission


Gracelin Baskaran, Research director & senior fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Eduardo Bitran, Professor of Economics and Member of Centro de Transición Energética, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile.

William Boyd, Professor of law and Faculty Co-Director of the Emmett Institute, UCLA Law

Anne Clawson, Principal at Cascade Advisory, head of Government Affairs & Public Policy

Dr. Cristina Dorador, Microbiologist and associate professor, Universidad de Antofagasta

Juan Pablo Escudero, Staff Attorney for the Emmett Institute, UCLA Law

Luis Olmedo, Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle, Inc.

Ernest Scheyder, Author of "The War Below" and senior correspondent at Reuters

Honorable Tomas Tortez, Jr., Chairman, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians

Jennifer Turner, Director of the China Environment Forum at the Wilson Center

Fabian Villalobos, Full Engineer and Professor of Public Policy, RAND Corporation

Alex Wang, Professor of law and Faculty Co-Director of the Emmett Institute, UCLA Law

Janet Wilson, Senior environment reporter for the Desert Sun

Jingjing Zhang, Executive director, Center for Transnational Environmental Accountability

Panel 1: The minerals we need, why we need them, and why it matters

First, the basics. What are the critical minerals at the heart of the clean energy transition and where do they come from? What are the key domestic and international policy drivers behind their rising importance?  And what are the potential environmental, social, and governance effects of their extraction, production, and distribution? This panel will provide an overview of these topics to set a common ground for discussion on which the remaining panels will build. Speakers will cover some basics about critical minerals sources, mining techniques, and distribution. They will also introduce key ideas concerning resource nationalism and the community impacts of these extractive processes.

Moderator: Professor William Boyd, UCLA Law

Panel 2: Critical minerals and global supply chains

Geopolitics are evolving rapidly around the supply and demand of lithium, nickel, cobalt, and other critical minerals. This panel will look at the global implications of production and supply chains, examining the key powers behind efforts to meet rising demands for these minerals. Speakers will dive deeper into resource nationalism, with a focus on geopolitical maneuverings by China and other powers to control supply in the Global South and elsewhere.  Panelists will also address how multinational corporations plan to meet the rising demand for these minerals, and how governance of global supply chains can and should shift to reflect these dynamics and to reduce environmental and social harms.

Moderator: Professor Alex Wang, UCLA Law

Panel 3: Community impacts of critical mineral extraction

How can jurisdictions pursue this much-needed energy transition with a commitment to environmental justice? This panel will discuss impacts on the ground for communities surrounding critical mineral extraction and processing facilities, with a focus on historically disadvantaged communities, including indigenous, low-income, and people of color. The panel will utilize case studies in both Chile and the Salton Sea to inform the discussion and will develop ideas for reducing these harms to reduce the risk that this energy transition replicates many of the harms created by earlier industrial energy developments.

Moderator: Juan Pablo Escudero, Staff Attorney, UCLA Emmett Institute

Photo credit: Tom Fisk 

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