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Rare mineral mine in South Africa hopes to benefit from the Beijing and Washington conflicts

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — In a dry region in western South Africa, the management of a mine with reserves of the world’s highest concentrated rare metals hopes to influence a market that is heavily dominated by China in an escalating trade war with South Africa. United State.

About 350 kilometers north of Cape Town, investors of the Steenkampskraal mine, discovered in 1949, extracted thorium used as a nuclear fuel between 1952 and 1964.

The mine has since been found to contain the rare, high-density monazite, as well as neodymium and praseodymium, resources the country plans to exploit soon.

These “rare metals” strategy arouses the ambitions of many in the world. It is a group of 17 essential minerals in high-tech industries, especially smart phones, plasma screens, electrical mechanisms as well as weapons.

The potential of the mine is a blessing for South Africa, while China, which produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rare metals, is lurking threats to the United States to stop shipments of the material, which Washington imports in large quantities, at the height of the trade war between the two countries.

Beijing produced 120,000 tons of these minerals in 2018, six times more than the United States, according to the US Geological Survey.

On July 22, President Donald Trump signed an order asking the Pentagon to find other sources of these precious metals.

Another reason for optimism for South Africa is that last year China became the first importer of these rare metals because of its large trade in electrical machinery.

Global machinery sales rose 68 percent last year to 12.5 million, including more than 1 million sold in China, according to the International Energy Agency.

– Lithium –

“China’s exports of precious metals could gradually decline due to its own needs, so it is necessary to find other sources to supply the United States, Europe and Japan,” Trevor Blinch, head of the Stincampscral mine, told AFP.

There is no mine in South Africa from which precious metals are currently recovered.

On the other hand, Beijing is seeking to control illegal exploration, which leads to a decline in domestic production for the benefit of foreign competitors.

“About 14 percent of the rocks” in the Stink Ambedkar mine are “made up of rare metals, and this is an extraordinary amount we have never seen in the world,” Blinch said. Globally, mines generally have a concentration close to 6 percent.

Having obtained all the permits to start the mining of monazite and received $ 50 million in funding, officials of the Stinkambskral mine are looking to produce 2,700 tons of these minerals annually.

Despite the hopes of investing in the mine, Blinch recognizes its modest size compared to the millions of tons of minerals in the world.

Diego Oliva Velez, an analyst at Fitch Solutions in London, said the concentration of these minerals is very high, but “the Stinkkampscral mine is especially made up of rare light metals (such as neodymium and praseodymium), which is being sought to a lesser extent than other heavy rare metals.”

“South Africa will remain behind other countries,” he said, citing proven reserves and greater investment prospects in countries such as Australia, India, Russia and Vietnam.

The exploitation of rare metals is developing elsewhere in Brazil and Canada.

But that does not diminish South Africa’s desire to develop its rare-metal production.

The head of the Council of Geological Sciences Musa Maposa that South Africa “rich in rocks containing rare minerals.”

The agency is currently studying the country’s mineral mines and says lithium, another rare mineral, is in the north of Cape Town.


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