South African mining veteran Brian Menell wants to build a battery material giant to help challenge China’s domination of the nascent industry.
It’s still early days for his privately funded company, TechMet Ltd., which controls just a handful of assets from Canada to Rwanda. But he’s raising more money and sees countries such as the U.S. and Japan as potential partners to help catch China in the rapidly growing industry to provide battery grade supplies of everything from tin and tungsten to nickel and cobalt.
“There’s a degree of urgency now,” said Menell, who started his mining career with diamond giant De Beers in the 1980s and whose family built one of South Africa’s largest mining companies. “It’s a massive problem” that China has dominated supply of these materials for about 15 years, he said.
The western world has become increasingly dependent on China for many of the materials needed for batteries used in electric vehicles, and demand is expected to keep growing.
The country has long dominated rare earth output, but is now grabbing more control in markets such as tungsten and cobalt. So much so that President Donald Trump last year ordered the U.S. to curb its dependence on external supplies of what America calls critical minerals.
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