The role of justice in developing critical minerals

Raphael J. Heffron (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


It is a fundamental objective to transition towards a low-carbon economy worldwide which is supported by an international legal agreement – the 2015 Paris Agreement. In order to achieve this ambition, there is a need for new and more mineral extraction which is necessary for the technology for this low-carbon transition. These minerals are known as critical minerals and this article examines the role of justice needed in their development. The literature to-date lacks any holistic yet focused examination of the key elements of justice in the development of this industry. This conceptual article makes an original contribution that utilises an interdisciplinary perspective, legal geography, and explores key issues of justice that include distributive, procedural, restorative, recognition and cosmopolitan. The research identifies the key questions that need to be resolved under each element of justice and the unfortunate limited timeframes for action. Critical justice areas include taxation, environmental impact assessments, waste management, social license to operate, and cross-border actions. Resolving these issues will directly address societal issues of inequality and ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Already there is a global race for critical minerals, and justice needs a stronger role in its development based on evidence to-date.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-863
Number of pages9
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Critical minerals
  • Energy justice
  • Inequality
  • Just transition
  • Low-carbon economy


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