CATALÃO, Brazil (Reuters) – Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right candidate favored to win Brazil’s presidential election this Sunday, has a vision for his nation’s economy: niobium.
This mineral is used as an additive to steel to make the metal stronger and lighter. Niobium is in high demand by automakers, aerospace companies and a host of other industries. Brazil accounts for about 85 percent of the world’s supply. And Bolsonaro wants to keep it that way.
China’s purchase two years ago of a small Brazilian niobium mine has the candidate agitating to block other foreign purchases of assets deemed strategic. So smitten is Bolsonaro with niobium – and Brazil’s potential to capitalize on its production – that he produced a 20-minute YouTube video touting its virtues.
Shot in a Brazilian niobium mine in 2016, when the longtime congressman was already making plans to run for president, the work lays out Bolsonaro’s utopian economic vision for his nation, fueled by the obscure mineral.
“The world talks a lot about Silicon Valley, right?” Bolsonaro says in the video. “I dream, who knows, that one day, we’ll also have a Niobium Valley.” Mark Zuckerberg probably isn’t losing sleep just yet. But the video offers a valuable window into Bolsonaro’s perspective on how nations grow rich.
Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship sought to protect strategic natural resources such as oil and minerals from foreign interests, favoring state companies to develop them instead.