US government announces investment in British rare earth specialist

October 6, 2020

TechMet’s nickel and cobalt mine in Brazil is thought to contain up to 72 million tons of nickel and cobalt (Courtesy TechMet)

The US government has invested $25 million in TechMet, a mining group based in London, UK, which specialises in rare earth production, according to The Telegraph. The investment is made with the aim of creating rare earth supply outside of China, which currently controls the global flow of materials such as cobalt and lithium. 

The investment in TechMet will reportedly help fund the development of a mine in Brazil set to produce nickel and cobalt, essential materials for the production of electric vehicles, batteries and cellphones. The announcement comes after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order which declared a national emergency in the mining industry, aimed at boosting domestic US production of rare earth materials. 

The order states that the country’s “undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

China produces around two-thirds of the world’s lithium-ion batteries and has taken steps to secure critical metals for them in Africa and Latin America. With the new order, the US’s Pentagon has promised to finance the domestic mining of essential materials while investing in projects abroad through the deployment of the $60 billion United States International Development Finance Corporation. 

TechMet’s Brazilian mine is the first metals and mining investment made under the order. Mining veteran and company founder Brian Menell, a former manager of the South African conglomerate Anglovaal and De Beers, stated, “A country’s national and industrial competitiveness will depend on preferential access to these raw materials.”

TechMet has a tin and tungsten mine in Rwanda, a rare earth mine in Burundi, and a lithium-ion battery project in Canada. The company also produces vanadium, a key metal used in the manufacture of nuclear reactors and military aircraft. It has stated that its prospective mine in Brazil contains up to 72 million tons of nickel and cobalt.

Adam Boehler, president of the US International Development Finance Corporation, commented on the investment, “This important funding will support economic growth in one of the least developed areas of Brazil. Investing in critical materials for advanced technologies supports development and drives US foreign policy.” 

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