The main problem for the politics of energy transition is the selection of adequate material sources. New energy sources must ensure efficiency, minimal emissions, supply stability, inclusiveness of distribution, and affordability of prices. Rare Earth Elements (REE) is a type of mineral that has high magnetic and conductive properties so that it becomes the choice of new energy sources. REE is also a crucial material for future hi-tech industries (technology, military, and medical). This research analyzes the resource making process of REE materiality in Bangka Belitung, Indonesia, and its relation to the search for new and renewable energy sources in the context of global climate change politics. REE materiality is characterized by mining that demands high technology, new and complex skills and knowledge, and large capital. The novelty of REE materiality results in new governance, value chains, as well as configuration of actors and negotiation of interests and discourses, when compared to existing natural resources (SDA). In short, the energy transition at the global level brings with it a series of challenges at the local level where the material is located.
Theoretically, the novelty of this research lies in its attempt to examine the materiality of natural resources through a political geology approach, a new approach in the study of natural resources politics in Indonesia. The geological approach is also called politics of subsoil, which understands territoriality vertically rather than horizontally and emphasizes that geological claims have implications for political rationality, on the other hand political negotiations also always affect geological claims. The research locus was conducted in Bangka Belitung, a province that has 186,000 tons of REE reserves (according to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources) and is the largest in Indonesia and has a long and complex history related to the dynamics of conflicts and interests from tin mining. Because the basic assumption of the study of materiality is that material differences will produce different political dynamics, this research assumes that the dynamics of REE resource making will be different from tin materiality. In the context of Indonesia, the political dynamics of REE will also be different from the existing types of natural resources. This is what makes this research empirically important.
Eko Bagus Sholihin is a PhD scholar at the Department of Politics and Government, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. He is also a lecturer at the Political Science Study Program at Raden Fatah State Islamic University Palembang. Eko Bagus completed his master degree at the Department of Politics and Government, Universitas Gadjah Mada, in 2019. His research interests cover the areas of civil society and democracy, social movements, as well as environmental politics and natural resource management.