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Saleem H. Ali director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, and Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is also Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, USA. Dr. Ali is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for 2010 and World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader" (2011). His books include "Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future" (Yale University Press). He can be followed on Twitter @saleem_ali.

The Scarce Mineral Behind the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics

  This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics is thankfully not being awarded for the discovery of some esoteric atomic particle but rather for the development of a technology that impacts all our lives. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its announcement that the prize was awarded to 3 scientists who “invented a new…

Mining Research in the Amazon – Methodological Perspectives from the Field

In this guest post, I have requested one of our doctoral candidates Mirella Gavidia to share her insights from communicating her dissertation research in the Amazon with communities whom she studied and who were not so used to contemporary social research methods. The iterative process by which field research must adapt to field conditions shines…

View from Kinshasa: Minerals and Development in the Democratic Republic of Congo

From 2000 to 2005, I was asked to teach an annual module in environmental conflict resolution at a program for mid-career professionals from developing countries held at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (funded by the Henry R. Luce Foundation). In one of the earlier…

Greening Efforts in North Korea: Peace Dividends Remain Elusive but Efforts must Endure

The latest geopolitical wrangle on the Korean peninsula hit me with particular disappointment as I ambled fruitlessly outside the sprawling North Korean embassy in the choicest diplomatic enclave in Beijing.  For two days I had waited to get my visa stamped for a visit to Pyongyang and a series of sites in the country where…

Methane and the Transformation of an Indigenous Community in Colorado

This posting is an excerpt from a longer report to which I contributed for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and published in May, 2014. The full report is available here. Amidst all the negativity one often reads about the predicament of indigenous communities worldwide, particularly with reference to extractive industries investments on…

Greening Natural Gas Delivery – LNG versus Pipelines

The recent tension between Ukraine and Russia has highlighted the significance of energy infrastructure as a diplomatic tool. Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas through pipelines has alerted Europe to the danger of such infrastructure dependence. However, it is still worth noting that despite all the saber-rattling, the gas is still flowing, and as some  analysts…

Mining in El Salvador: Can Corporate Behaviour be Changed?

Guest article by Vladimir Pacheco Central America remains a land of tremendous potential but persistent poverty. In vulnerable states recovering from civil strife and growing inequality, foreign corporate investment has additional obligations to ensure community consent through patient engagement. In this guest article, Vladimir Pacheco, a social scientist who has worked on mining and human…

The FARC and the Taliban: Drawing Lessons across Colombia and Pakistan

Few Pakistanis get to visit Colombia, a country quite physically and culturally distant from their land of abode. Yet as I discovered from my visit to Colombia’s capital Bogota this week, there is much which Pakistanis can learn from this land of coffee, cocaine and coal. So what are the similarities between these two ostensibly…

Mauritius: Charting the Future of an African Outlier

Travels across the South Indian Ocean can be nicely punctuated with an exotic stopover on the small island state of Mauritius. The country boasts a fine airline which flies regularly to Australia and connects to various destinations on the African continent with which it shares geopolitical allegiances, including membership in the African Union. In January…

Afghanistan: Reaching In and Reaching Out

In this guest article, my former student from the University of Vermont, Ian Lynch, narrates his perspectives on Afghanistan’s future based on the past months he has spent in Kabul as a teacher for the School of Leadership (SOLA). Ian exemplifies the best of American youth who are trying to genuinely help rebuild Afghanistan despite…

Mercury Reduction in Xinjiang’s Gold Mines: Fieldnotes from an Eco-entrepreneur

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASM) continues to be a major user of metallic mercury worldwide. During the past six months the National Geographic Air and Water Fund for China has supported an applied research project with Dr. Lanhai Li based at the Xinjiang Institute of Geography and Ecology (a Chinese Academy of Sciences institute)…

Lessons from a Penultimate New Year’s Eve in Sydney

Temporal milestones are opportunities for reflection and renewal. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduation Reunions – we celebrate these festivities with fanfare, but also try to find a sobering moment to ponder what each event means. Yet the euphoria that surrounds the celebration around our most definitive temporal milestone – the advent of a New Year on the…

Adventure, Records and Constructive Nationalism

As with other troubled lands, many of the most educated citizens of Pakistan live abroad. Those in the diaspora often feel torn between multiple allegiances. They contend with feelings of guilt-laden compassion for their land of origin, while registering relief on fleeing turmoil. What do we owe our lands of origin? How can we enjoy…

Chile and Pakistan: A Missed Opportunity for Mineral Relations at Reko Diq

Looking at a planetary map, one would find very little in common between South America’s most developed country, Chile, and South Asia’s beleaguered nuclear power, Pakistan. Apart from the physical distance, there is little commonality in linguistic, religious or ethno-cultural background. Yet minerals and economic expedience have brought these two countries closer to possible cooperation.…

Rapid Reflections on Russia

From October 18 to 22, 2013, I had an opportunity to participate in an intensive series of meetings and site visits organized by the World Economic Forum’s network of “Young Global Leaders.” Special thanks to the program organizers Yana Peel and Yan Yanovskiy who graciously hosted the program. The program operated under Chatham House Rules…