A Chinese threat to halt exports of rare minerals — vital for high-performance electric motors in wind turbines, hybrid cars and missiles — appears to have backfired.
With control of more than 99 percent of the world’s production of these minerals, China could try to use a ban to force other countries to buy the crucial motors for these high-tech end products, instead of just the minerals, directly from China. But other governments and businesses reacted quickly as word of the proposed ban spread late this summer.
The Chinese threat has touched off a frenzied international effort to develop alternative mines, much as the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo’s repeated increases in oil prices prompted a global hunt for oil reserves.
In Washington, the House and Senate amended their defense budget authorization bills to require the Defense Department to review the military’s almost complete dependence on Chinese supplies of rare-earth minerals. In Australia, the government blocked a Chinese state-owned company on Thursday from acquiring a majority stake in a large mine being developed for these minerals, also called rare earths. Meanwhile, Wall Street is financing exploration as the share prices of rare-earths mining companies soar — as much as sevenfold since March.
The Australian has opened fire on another front, this time looking at chinese efforts to secure potash supplies from Africa - Elemental Minerals follows Congo potash after DMC iron foray.
But, slowly but surely, things are starting to stir in Congo-Brazzaville. Mining hasn’t had much of a look in there because of the nation’s oil and gas riches, which account for 92 per cent of the country’s exports. ... Now comes potash. There is already one established potash project owned by Canadian company MagIndustries.
It is not surprising that Elemental Minerals (ELM) got a 125 per cent boost to its share price on Thursday, when it announced it had picked up the Sintoukoula potash project in Congo-Brazzaville. Significantly, this ground is just 50km from the country’s port for overseas shipping, Pointe Noire. There has already been work done there, and the Canadian ground to the south includes the Holle mine, which operated from 1969 until 1977, when it was flooded and closed down. That mine produced sylvite, which is potassium chloride and essential to fertilisers.
Here’s the point: if ELM’s project gets legs, then there are going to be a good many players becoming interested - especially the Chinese, who are scouring the world for sources of potash and phosphate. This is not only because of the need to maintain food production in China. What is happening now is that China is looking to Africa as a future food source.