US invests in British mining company to source critical minerals

October 6, 2020

As part of the efforts to lessen its dependence on China for critical minerals that fuel new technologies for national defense and green energy the United States government announced it will invest $25 million in to London, England-based TechMet, a mining group that specializes in producing rare earth metals.

The investment will help TechMet develop a nickel/cobalt mine in Brazil. The company already has a tin and tungsten mine in Rwanda, a rare earths mine in Burundi, and a lithium ion battery project in Canada. The company also produces vanadium, a crucial metal for manufacturing nuclear reactors and military aircraft.

On Sept. 30, President Trump signed an executive order that aims to increase production of critical minerals in the United States by declaring a national emergency in the U.S. mining industry while directing the Interior Department to explore using the Defense Production Act to hasten the development of mines.

China produces roughly two thirds of the world’s lithium-ion batteries and has taken steps to secure critical metals for them in Africa and Latin America.

Washington has deployed the $60 billion United States International Development Finance Corporation, created under President Donald Trump to counter growing Chinese geopolitical influence around the world, to back TechMet, its first metals and mining investment.

The Telegraph reported that TechMet was founded in 2017 by mining veteran Brian Menell, a former executive at South African conglomerate Anglovaal and De Beers.

Following the investment, Menell said: “A country’s national and industrial competitiveness will be dependent on preferential access to these raw materials.”

Menell added, “It’s lovely having Tesla and Panasonic, but China can close them down in five minutes as they have to go to China for raw materials.”

The U.S. money will help fund further development at TechMet’s Brazilian Nickel project in the north-eastern state of Piaui. TechMet has said that the mine contains as much as 72 million tonnes of nickel and cobalt.

Fellow British mining company Anglo Pacific invested £2 million in the promising project in 2017, according to public documents reviewed by The Telegraph, and retains the right to invest a further £70 million should the mine hit a number of milestones.

Adam Boehler, chief executive of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, said, “This important financing will support economic growth in one of Brazil’s most underdeveloped areas.”

“Investments in critical materials for advanced technology support development and advance U.S. foreign policy,” he said.

Last year, U.S. senators were told that a “global battery arms race” was under way, in which the U.S. is just a “bystander.”

Chinese companies dominate the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, where more than 60 percent of the world’s cobalt lies.

 

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