Geography of control: a deep dive assessment on criticality and lithium supply chain
Alberto Prina Cerai (Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei)
A12, F52, L72, Q34
Criticality stakeholder perspective, Lithium, Source of control, Strategic asset, Batteries, Supply chain
This paper discusses potential new metrics for criticality assessments testing them on lithium supply chain. In the midst of the US-China technological competition, it is essential to fine-tune the methodology according to the new international context. First, to understand more in depth the structure and complexity of critical minerals supply chain, as countries are not fully aware of the intricate webs of cross-ownership or firm-to-firm relations that determine ultimate control from mining to downstream activities. To this end, I propose and discuss the concept of source of control (SOC). Second, I take as a case study the geography of production of lithium, from a country and company perspective, to show the complexity of two-level interconnections among entities involved. Criticality is a social-constructed feature that can inform policymaking in raw materials’ supply chains and it should consider not only where those critical minerals come from but also who controls their production. In order to test the plausibility of these improvements, I show how the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is intended to redraw the lithium-ion battery supply chain through a top-down approach. Generally, criticality studies have been primarily concerned about dependency risks while not considering the role of positive/negative externalities. Once these are clearly recognized, policy interventions should be tailored according to supply chain dynamics in industries or technological assets that States judge to be strategic.