The Wall Street Journal Report has disclosed that the United States and Saudi Arabia are in talks to secure metals in Africa to help them with their energy transitions.
A state-backed Saudi venture would buy stakes in mining assets worth $15 billion in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Namibia, which will permit US companies to have rights to buy some of the production, the report added.
The US is in a race to catch up with China for supplies of cobalt, lithium and other metals that are used in electric car batteries, laptops and smartphones.
In a similar arrangement in July, Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma’aden) and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) acquired 10% of Brazilian Vale’s base metal unit, while US investment firm Engine No. 1 acquired 3%.
The report noted that the PIF approached Congo in June about investing in cobalt, copper and tantalum in the country via its $3 billion joint venture with Ma’aden called Manara Minerals. Manara is also focusing on iron ore, nickel and lithium.
The U.S is seeking the financial backing of other sovereign-wealth funds in the region, but talks with Saudi Arabia have progressed the farthest, the Journal stated.
Having already used its energy riches to upend the worlds of sports, tourism and movies, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is prepared to pour billions of dollars into tapping the more than $1.3 trillion of metals his government said is buried in the ground.
Meanwhile, the plan may be among the less glamorous components of his grand Vision 2030 to transform the Saudi economy. The prospect of turning the country into a metals hub that can make a dent in a global industry also has no shortage of skeptics. But Saudi Arabia’s 38-year-old de-facto leader has no shortage of wealth or ambition.
The Dream To Have Implications Beyond The Middle East
If only partially successful, the dream would have implications beyond the Middle East, not just for metals mining but also Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US, China and the emerging markets the kingdom is inching closer to.
Swiegers, a Namibian who works for British mining firm Moxico Resources Plc, is a believer. He’s helping establish a new zinc and copper open pit mine about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
“I’ve done projects all over Africa, and I know the geology and where is good to mine,” said Swiegers, extracting earth samples from the rig from as deep as 200 meters and pointing to copper deposits glittering in the sun. “This site is just like those.”
If everything comes to fruition, by 2025 the Khnaiguiyah site he’s working on will be producing metals including 100,000 tons a year of zinc and 10,000 tons of copper in its first phase. That’s miniscule by global standards — equivalent to Chile’s copper output in about 18 hours — but the aim is to double the volume. It’s one of several projects in the kingdom.