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This RAND paper was developed to communicate the results of a tabletop exercise (TTX) conducted as part of a broader event, a workshop called “Critical Minerals in the Arctic: Forging the Path Forward,” which RAND cosponsored with the Wilson Center, the University of Alaska, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Arctic Energy Office. The authors summarize the TTX methodology and report key findings for policymakers and other stakeholders on five topics: supply chains, local community impacts and opportunities, infrastructure, finance, and the regulatory environment.

The TTX pointed to potential promise in securing additional critical minerals supplies in Alaska and elsewhere in the Arctic, but the TTX results caution against many common hurdles to development in the state and region. They also point to familiar issues to avoid risks and negative outcomes. The primary opportunities or desired outcomes identified included chances for community growth and stability and for workforce development; improved infrastructure, technology, and research; less environmentally harmful practices; and new markets for alternative energy sources and recycling materials. The primary risk types or negative outcomes that were emphasized included continued boom-and-bust cycles; adverse effects on local and Indigenous communities and the environment; and lack of tangible and sustainable benefits for communities. Additionally, the United States has a promising avenue of increasing cooperation with like-minded Arctic countries.

The findings should be of interest to policymakers; Alaskan stakeholders and rights-holders; the mining industry; and those with interest in critical minerals supply chains, the Arctic, policy gaming methodologies, and economic development.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and conducted in the Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.