Case Studies & Seminar

The seminar typically deals with a topic of current interest. The course is offered in winter term only. For completion of the cluster an oral exam of 20 minutes will have to be taken, and a presentation of 10 minutes and a paper of 15 pages will have to be prepared.

Topics of winter term 2012/2013

Case Study Seminar in this term consists of two subjects. You have the choice of selecting one of the subjects (see below).

Standardized format of the seminar papers

  • 15 pages minimum: consisting of written text and footnotes
  • Font-size: 12
  • Spaced: 1,5
  • Margin to the left and right: 2 cm
  • Footnotes: font-size 10, single-spaced

Subject 1: Supply and Demand of Critical materials focusing on Rare Earths

Critical materials are essential for the world economy. In the last decades, the demand for critical materials increased dramatically. However, the availability of critical materials is increasingly under pressure due to the physical and technical scarcity. Moreover, there are environmental threats associated with each step of the supply chain of critical materials (see Figure).

The objectives of the case studies are (1) to analyze the supply of Rare Earths out of new deposits (2) to analyze the supply chain of Rare Earths as an important task for procurement

Suppliers of rare earths

Since 1999, China, as the biggest producer, dominates the Rare Earths market. In 2010 China restricted the production and exports of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) to protect the nation’s environment. Many countries started to investigate REEs deposits outside China. The past two years saw the development of over 400 projects of REEs exploration projects. However, there are many risks faced by the project developers of REEs from such deposits. From exploration to production, the development of a mine is determined by many factors, such as covering geological properties, mining complexities, technical availability, economic conditions, administrative decisions and environmental criteria.

Please select one of the following REE projects, identify and analyse the key success factors and major risks for the project developer:

  1. Lovozero
  2. Mount Weld (Lynas)
  3. Streenkampskraal (Great Westen Minerals Group)
  4. Kvanefjeld (Greenland Minerals & Energy)
  5. Kutessay II (Stan)
  6. Strange Lake (Quest Rare Minerals)
  7. Tantalus Rare Earths (Madagascar)
  8. Kipawa (Matamec Explorations)
  9. Norra Kärr (Tasman Metals)

Users of rare earths

To secure medium and long term RE supply, more and more end-users are linking up with REE mining projects through partnerships, joint ventures or investments. Please analyse the procurement strategies of end-users and their involvement with such partnerships

  1. REE in automobiles and procurement strategies of (examples: Toyota, BMW)
  2. REE in cell phones and procurement strategies of (example: i-phones, Samsung)
  3. REE in green energy technologies (example: Siemens)
  4. REE in permeate magnet (example: Vakuumschmelzen)
  5. Japanese REE industry
  6. Substitution of REEs   
  7. Impact of the US Dodd-Frank-Act and implications for users of REE

A raw material is labeled “critical” if the risks of supply shortage and their impacts on the economy are higher in comparison with (most of the) other raw materials. Rare Earths are a subcategory of Critical Materials.

Subject 2: Environmental aspects of mining & Mineral policy

Mining is seen as an indispensable industry for the delivery of raw materials for many applications, with many such applications contributing to sustainable development. These minerals allow for light-weight, long life-cycle, energy efficient, recyclable etc. products. Mining, however is also an industry with negative environmental effects during all stages of its operations. Mining may cause wealth, but not necessarily at the locations of the mines and strong tensions may arise between mines and local communities.

Mining companies have become aware of these issues and they are voluntarily developing Guidance Principles and Codes of Good Practice for mitigating these negative impacts. Governments of resource rich countries enact mining laws by which they regulate the operation of mining activities in the context of economic development, environmental protection and social welfare. Mining laws can become important instruments for bringing mining onto a path of sustainable development.


Select a Code of Practice or Guidelines for Mining (or similar) as published by an International (Mining) Organization of your choice (e.g. ICMM; International Council on Mining and Metals) or IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) and pick a Mining Act of a country of your choice. Analyze the Mining Act using the Code of Practice or the Guidelines for Mining as a benchmark and score or rank the elements of the Mining Act according to the criteria contained in the Code of practice or the Guidelines.

Give your overall assessment of the mining Act of your selection.