Partnership could boost U.S. in race with China for cobalt while jump-starting Saudi mining industry
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are in talks to secure metals in Africa needed for both countries’ energy transitions, as the White House tries to curb China’s dominance in the electric-vehicle supply chain and the kingdom looks to buy $15 billion in global mining stakes, said people with knowledge of the talks.
Any agreement could entail Saudi Arabia giving the U.S. a boost in its attempt to play catch-up with China in the global race for cobalt, lithium and other metals that are processed into rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to power electric cars, laptops and smartphones.
Chinese companies refine three-quarters of the world’s cobalt supply and produce about 70% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, raising concerns in the West about reliance on Beijing. If completed, the U.S.-Saudi partnership would mark a positive step for two countries that have had strained relations since President Biden took office and promised to make the Gulf kingdom a “pariah” for its human-rights record.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has been critical of Saudi Arabia’s alignment with Moscow to keep oil prices high and wary of its embrace of China, though Washington-Riyadh relations have begun to thaw, with increasing commercial cooperation.
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