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UNICRI Launches New Study on Illegal Mining and ‘Green Minerals’ in Southeast Asia

UNICRI Launches New Study on Illegal Mining and ‘Green Minerals’ in Southeast Asia


The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) is pleased to announce the launch of a comprehensive study focusing on crimes associated with the mining and trafficking of critical ‘green minerals’ in Southeast Asia. This research underlines UNICRI’s commitment to addressing the crimes associated with the extraction and trafficking of critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, which are essential for the development of green energy and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

As the world moves towards digitalisation and decarbonisation, the demand for green minerals, crucial for green energy technologies like electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels, continues to grow. Southeast Asia, with its rich deposits of rare earth elements (REEs), lithium, cobalt and nickel, plays a critical role in meeting this global demand. However, the rapid expansion of mining for these resources has led to significant environmental challenges, including deforestation, land degradation and pollution, with serious impacts on local ecosystems and communities.

Illegal mining and smuggling of these minerals not only undermine legitimate economies, but also exacerbate environmental degradation, leading to biodiversity loss and widespread ecological disruption. These activities often occur unchecked in regions with fragile governance, contributing to conflicts and human rights abuses.

Concerns about the involvement of organized crime groups (OCGs) in these activities has been widely expressed by the international community and notably reflected in ECOSOC Resolution 2019/23. This resolution focuses on combating transnational organized crime linked to illicit trafficking in precious metals and illegal mining, including enhancing the security of supply chains. UNICRI has been at the forefront of these efforts, conducting studies and producing reports that delineate the connections between organized crime, illegal mining, and the trafficking of precious metals.

The culmination of this research will be a report detailing the findings and providing actionable recommendations for Member States and other stakeholders in the region. Additionally, UNICRI plans to organize capacity-building workshops and an event to present the findings, facilitating a dialogue among national and international stakeholders to foster effective implementation of the proposed solutions.

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