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Africa’s Rare Earths Could Make Up 9% of Global Supply by 2029

(Bloomberg) -- African mines could account for nearly a 10th of the world’s rare earths in five years, climbing from zero today, creating new players in a market dominated by China.

Eight mines in countries such as Tanzania, Angola, Malawi and South Africa are expected to start production by 2029 and contribute 9% of global supply, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Most of this new supply could still be secured by Western and non-Chinese processing firms, the London-based industry consultant said in a new analysis.

China mines about 70% of the world’s rare earths and refines almost all of the material – a cluster of 17 elements that make magnets used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and military equipment. Beijing can flex its muscles by limiting both production and exports. In December, the Asian country banned overseas sales of a range of rare-earth technologies.

The US and its allies are trying to build supply chains independent of China. While 37% of the future African supply is already destined to be shipped to Chinese buyers, most of the production is “potentially available for ex-China and Western rare earths companies,” Benchmark said, noting that Europe is developing the most processing facilities outside of China.

“China will not be the only beneficiary of Africa’s active, low cost pipeline, which will also become strategically valuable for the EU and US,” it said.

None of the companies building the African rare earth mines covered in Benchmark’s research – including Pensana, Rainbow Rare Earths and Mkango Resources – are Chinese-owned and all are registered in Western countries. However, China’s customers will remain crucial for some of the miners to ensure their projects are viable because processing capacity in the West is not expanding quickly enough, the report added.

 

 

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