Nine countries join U.S. strategic minerals initiative

September 27, 2019

The United States created the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) as a way for participating nations to help decrease their reliance on China for a host of critical minerals, including rare earths. On Sept. 26, the United States announced that nine countries have joined the initiative to help discover and develop reserves of the minerals.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with foreign ministers from the nine countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The countries joining the United States include Australia, Botswana, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, the Philippines and Zambia, Reuters reported.

Under the ERGI announced in June, the United States will share mining expertise with member countries to help them discover and develop their minerals such as lithium, copper and cobalt, as well as advise on management and governance frameworks to help ensure their industries are attractive to international investors.

“U.S. companies require a certain set of above-ground conditions regardless of what’s below ground,” Frank Fannon, the top U.S. energy diplomat, said in an interview.

The concern about the United States’ dependence on the minerals grew recently after Beijing suggested using them as leverage in the trade war between the United States and China.

When it first introduced ERGI, the State Department said Canada was part of the initiative, but the U.S. neighbor was not listed as a member on the September announcement because Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland stayed at home for the election campaign period.

A U.S. official said the Trump administration “remains hopeful that Canada will join the initiative in the near future.”

Other nations have invested in the United States. An Australian investment group, formerly known as Morzev Pty Ltd before changing its name to USA Rare Earth, is developing the Round Top mine in Texas with Texas Mineral Resources Corp.

“Australia sees Round Top as a key investment into the U.S. critical materials space,” said Pini Althaus, USA Rare Earth’s chief executive. 

Canada’s Medallion Resources Ltd, a rival rare earths company, is considering investing in the United States and on Thursday said it found a way to automate part of its production process.

 

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