VOA: US tries to control China’s dominance of rare minerals from Africa

China Africa

Cape Town in South Africa hosted the Indaba Mining Conference from February 6 to 9. Several experts at the event pointed out that the United States and China are in a race to gain more crucial minerals that will dominate the world’s projected transition to clean energy, the Voice Of America (VOA) reported.

The African Country like Congo has the largest deposit of these crucial resources and China dominates the world’s supply and refinement chain of these minerals. The VOA report claimed that the US is trying to reduce its control in this scenario.

The US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez was quoted in the report saying that “I don’t need to remind you of what happens when the supply chain breaks down or when we depend on a single supplier. We lived it during the COVID pandemic, and this is a vulnerability that we need to solve together.”

The report claims that even though Fernandez did not name China but he highlighted that electric vehicles are expected to command half the global market by 2030 and that demand for lithium is expected to increase 42-fold by 2040. China is responsible for some 80 per cent of the world’s lithium refining.

The director of Acorus Capital and an international adviser to the conference Tony Carroll said, “The Chinese made it a priority to corner the market for critical minerals about two decades ago and supported that strategy with massive public diplomacy and infrastructure investments into Africa — most of which [came] via long-term debt. The West woke up to this strategy too late and have been scrambling ever since.”

“While late to the game, the US has awakened with more ambition in mining and processing and building alliances with like-minded partners,” said Carroll, who is also an adjunct professor in the African studies program at Johns Hopkins University.

President of Congo Felix Tshisekedi, who was one of the key speakers at the mining conference, has been demanding better terms from China for several years. China sources the majority of its cobalt from DRC, which produces some 70 per cent of the world’s total.

Even when Congo currently has the biggest accumulations of these resources. It still remains the world’s least developed country. He highlighted that “Congo hadn’t benefited from a USD 6.2 billion minerals-for-infrastructure contract with China signed by his predecessor.”

He also mentioned that “The Democratic Republic of Congo has derived no benefit from it. There’s nothing tangible, no positive impact, I’d say, for our population.” He also mentions that “Now our need is simply to re-balance things in a way that it becomes win-win”.

In yet another effort to reduce China’s dominance, the administration of US President Joe Biden organized the Minerals Security Partnership last year as a way of diversifying supply chains.

Partners include Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. At its first meeting last year, Congo was one of the non-partner nations in attendance.

Then in December last year at the US-Africa Summit, Congo and Zambia finalised a deal with the US to jointly develop the supply chain for electric vehicle batteries, in an effort to reduce China’s dominance in the matter.

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