Senior Treasury official highlights US ambitions for African metals

by MMC
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(Bloomberg) — U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo used a five-day trip to South Africa to announce his country’s ambitions to secure supplies of metals needed for the global energy transition – materials which abound in Africa.

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Adeyemo, in a speech to US companies operating in the country, stressed that South Africa must put in place the right incentives to boost the mining industry. He also visited a mine owned by Sibanye Stillwater Ltd., a South African precious metals and battery mining company that has invested in a palladium operation in the US state of Montana.

In a subsequent interview with Bloomberg, he offered veiled criticism of the approach of China, the United States’ geopolitical rival, which has blocked much of Africa’s production of metals needed for electric vehicle batteries and renewable power plants.

The infrastructure needed to export minerals is often “built by people who want to exploit these minerals for their own benefit”, he said in an interview at the Johannesburg office on March 15. “Railroads should not just go from a mine to a port, but there should be other steps along the way that would help stimulate a more robust economy.

Although the United States has fallen behind China in the race for Africa’s resources, it has recently taken bold steps. The most notable of these was support for a $2.3 billion railway project linking the copper belt of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to a port on the Angolan coast via a 2,600 kilometer network (1,616 miles).

In South Africa, the US International Development Finance Corporation has invested $50 million in the development of a rare earths operation aimed at counterbalancing Chinese dominance in the supply of crucial minerals.

South Africa has the sixth best supply of raw materials needed to make lithium-ion batteries, with growing supplies of nickel and the world’s largest reserves of manganese, key metals for battery manufacturing, according to a ranking established by Bloomberg BNEF.

–With help from Alister Bull, Ntando Thukwana, Arijit Ghosh and Jennifer Zabasajja.

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