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Natural Resources

A man in a hard hat watches a conveyor belt loaded with bright blue chunks of raw cobalt.
A man in a hard hat watches a conveyor belt loaded with bright blue chunks of raw cobalt.

How to Avoid a New Cold War Over Critical Minerals

To prevent a return to the zero-sum logic of Cold War resource politics, critical mineral supply chains must be widened at every step.

A closeup of a silicon wafer on display at Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institution on September 16, 2022 in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
A closeup of a silicon wafer on display at Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institution on September 16, 2022 in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

The Battle Over Semiconductors Is Endangering Taiwan

TSMC is an economic boon, but its success makes China covet the industry while its natural resource consumption reduces resilience.

Congolese workers stand beside bags filled with cobalt and copper slag at the STL processing plant in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Dec. 1, 2011.
Congolese workers stand beside bags filled with cobalt and copper slag at the STL processing plant in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Dec. 1, 2011.

What Do Electric Cars Really Cost?

“Volt Rush” examines the price of a dirty green business—and China’s role.

Afghan miners work.
Afghan miners work.

‘The Taliban Have Picked Up the Resource Curse’

The Taliban are strip-mining their mineral wealth to fund factional power grabs.

Men in Kabul's Deh Sabz district work on the back of a coal truck.
Men in Kabul's Deh Sabz district work on the back of a coal truck.

Taliban Wage War Over Coal in Northern Afghanistan

The battle for cash pits the Kabul extremists against Hazara locals.

A digger descends into a copper and cobalt mine in Kawama, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on June 8, 2016.
A digger descends into a copper and cobalt mine in Kawama, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on June 8, 2016.

Green Energy’s Dirty Secret: Its Hunger for African Resources

The scramble for battery metals threatens to replicate one of the most destructive dynamics in global economic history.

The sun sets on a deep-sea mining vessel
The sun sets on a deep-sea mining vessel

Race to the Bottom: Deep Sea Mining Is the Next Frontier

The untapped trove of metals on the ocean floor might be the key to a greener future—or an environmental catastrophe.

An Afghan worker works on the site of an ancient monastery discovered in Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar on Nov. 23, 2010. The archaeological dig is located at the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine.
An Afghan worker works on the site of an ancient monastery discovered in Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar on Nov. 23, 2010. The archaeological dig is located at the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine.

China Wants Its Investments in Afghanistan to Be Safer Than in Pakistan

Beijing could profit handsomely from Afghan resources and exports, but new ventures risk exposing Chinese nationals to violence.

Ukrainian coal mine
Ukrainian coal mine

Russia’s Resource Grab in Ukraine

Ukraine’s extraordinary riches in energy, minerals, and agriculture are a prize for the Kremlin.

A Japanese microprocessor factory
A Japanese microprocessor factory

Putin’s War Threatens Microchips, Teeth, and Beer

Russia’s invasion has torn asunder oil and agricultural markets. But there’s lots more economic carnage on the way.

Chinese dredging vessels at work at the Colombo Port City under construction in Colombo, Sri Lanka on May 14, 2018. Xinhua/CHEC via Getty Images
Chinese dredging vessels at work at the Colombo Port City under construction in Colombo, Sri Lanka on May 14, 2018. Xinhua/CHEC via Getty Images

The Great Sand Grab

Modern civilizations are forged with sand, but soaring extraction has come at an alarming price.

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, Mozambique, near the border with Zimbabwe on Sept. 19, 2010.
An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, Mozambique, near the border with Zimbabwe on Sept. 19, 2010.

Zimbabwe’s Chance to Shine

Its ascent to a leadership role in international diamond accreditation is an opportunity for the industry to clean up its act.

Seabed mining in Indonesia
Seabed mining in Indonesia

Can Mining the Seabed Help Save the Planet?

Few other issues better illustrate the messy trade-offs involved in climate policy.

Firestone workers carry buckets of latex down a road lined with rubber trees in Harbel, Liberia, in 1978.
Firestone workers carry buckets of latex down a road lined with rubber trees in Harbel, Liberia, in 1978.

When the Rubber Hits the Road

A new book on Firestone Liberia highlights the stark choices faced by countries where capital is in short supply.

Cypriot Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Christodoulides, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Emirati Presidential Advisor Anwar Gargash hold a press conference after meeting in the western Cypriot city of Paphos, on April 16.
Cypriot Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Christodoulides, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Emirati Presidential Advisor Anwar Gargash hold a press conference after meeting in the western Cypriot city of Paphos, on April 16.

Iran’s Biggest Problem Is Water

With supplies running out, water security could be the issue that finally makes the region’s countries work together.

A rare-earth refinery.
A rare-earth refinery.

Why Rare Earths Are the Key to Just About Everything

They’re not actually that rare, but their importance to almost all modern technologies cannot be overstated.

The Apusiajik glacier in Greenland.
The Apusiajik glacier in Greenland.

56,000 Greenlanders Could Shape the Future of Rare Earths

Washington and Beijing are watching a snap election on the huge island closely.

A fisherman holds a batch of tuna in Kiribati, where fishing is one of the most common occupations, on Sept. 25, 2015.
A fisherman holds a batch of tuna in Kiribati, where fishing is one of the most common occupations, on Sept. 25, 2015.

How Eight Pacific Island States Are Saving the World’s Tuna

They have created a strikingly successful scheme that prevents overfishing and raises local incomes at once.

A Long March 5 rocket carrying an orbiter, lander, and rover destined for Mars lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province, China, on July 23, 2020.
A Long March 5 rocket carrying an orbiter, lander, and rover destined for Mars lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province, China, on July 23, 2020.

America Needs a Supercharged Space Program

It could build entire industries, create new jobs, green the economy—and unite the country behind a common purpose.

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