January Newsletter – 24.01.2022


  • Saudi’s state-controlled miner names fourth CEO in two years
  • Hunter Biden and the cobalt mine, explained
  • No national security issue in Chinese takeover of Canadian lithium company: Liberals
  • Back to drawing board for new Rio chief as lithium mine scrapped
  • China’s rare earth metal monopoly is a threat to the US
  • Codelco adds 30 years to Andina copper mine
  • Tianqi Lithium said to pick banks for Hong Kong listing
  • Copper plays a role in ozone depletion –research
  • Visualizing China’s dominance in clean energy metals

Saudi’s state-controlled miner names fourth CEO in two years

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Maaden headquarters

Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled miner has named its fourth chief executive officer in the past two years after replacing Abdulaziz Al-Harbi.

Robert Wilt, a former Alcoa Corp. executive who was most recently CEO of one of Canada’s largest food companies, will lead Saudi Arabian Mining Co., according to a bourse filing Sunday. Wilt will replace Al-Harbi, who was in the role since April and will now become the deputy CEO, it said.

It’s just the latest shake-up at the top of Maaden, as the company, majority-owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, is known. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants the mining industry to be a key part of the country’s diversification from oil and has said it has $1.3 trillion of metals and minerals so far untapped. Yet progress on developing new resources has been slow, even as commodity prices globally have soared.

Al-Harbi replaced Mosaed Ohali, who was named as CEO in 2020. He took over from former HSBC Holdings Plc banker Darren Davies, who had been in the role since mid-2018.

Wilt, a management engineering grad from United States Military Academy at West Point, has held several executive positions in Alcoa, including executive vice president and president of global primary products, according to his LinkedIn page. Shortly after, he joined US-based aerospace firm Precision Castparts as CEO, which was followed by his latest role as CEO of Canadian-based Sofina Foods.


Hunter Biden and the cobalt mine, explained

In 2016, an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden helped a Chinese mining conglomerate get control of a large Congolese cobalt mine from an American company.

It’s unclear whether Hunter Biden was directly involved with the deal, which happened while his father was still vice president, or how much money he may have gotten from it, if he got anything at all.

Still, Republicans want to investigate the deal, foreshadowing a potential route the party might take if it controls the House after the 2022 midterm elections.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, wrote to the National Archives earlier this week with a sweeping document request, asking for any records or communications from the last two years of the Obama administration discussing cobalt mines, the companies involved in the deal, and Hunter Biden.

The American people “deserve answers,” the letter stated, on why officials in the Obama administration “watched in silence as an American company transferred control of this precious asset to a Chinese conglomerate.” It also asked why “Hunter Biden was—yet again—involved in international matters on which he has no expertise.”


No national security issue in Chinese takeover of Canadian lithium company: Liberals

The pending takeover of a Canadian lithium mining company by a Chinese state-owned company raises no national security concerns, federal Liberals argued Thursday.

Liberal MP Andy Fillmore, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, told a House of Commons committee that the Industry Department reviewed last fall the proposed takeover of Neo Lithium Corp. by China’s Zijin Mining Group Ltd.

That review concluded that Neo Lithium is “really not a Canadian company,” he told the industry committee, describing it as an Argentine company with directors in the United Kingdom and only three Canadian employees “on paper.”

He said the only reason Neo Lithium “had any Canadian toehold whatsoever,” was to get on the Toronto Stock Exchange in a bid to raise money for what Fillmore called an “increasingly dubious appearing” mine development project in Argentina.


Back to drawing board for new Rio chief as lithium mine scrapped

Jakob Stausholm, Rio Tinto’s CEO since January 2021.

After the destruction of ancient caves in 2020 led to global embarrassment and a management clean-out, the newly appointed chief of Rio Tinto Group was betting the development of a massive lithium project would be key to a fresh start. His plan is now in tatters.

On Thursday, Serbia Prime Minister Ana Brnabic cited environmental concerns for her government’s decision to put a “full stop” on the bid by Rio’s chief executive, Jakob Stausholm, to develop Jadar, Europe’s biggest lithium mine. “Everything is finished,” she said. “It’s over.”

Serbia’s decision is a blow to Stausholm, who after winning the helm just over a year ago said he was aiming to win back trust for the world’s second-largest miner among host communities in the wake of the fiasco at Juukan Gorge. Those remote caves in Australia’s Outback were used by Indigenous people for an estimated 46,000 years until being blown up to create a new iron ore mine.


China’s rare earth metal monopoly is a threat to the US

China’s monopoly on rare earth minerals is a danger to the United States. Newly proposed legislation, however, seeks to circumvent that threat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare how dependent the U.S. is on Chinese manufacturing and goods, including what are termed “rare earths,” a group of metals used to make magnets found in electronics, weaponry, and vehicles.

Indeed, REs are an essential component of the tools that the U.S. military needs to wage war. As importantly, they are an essential component in our country’s domestic infrastructure, underwriting essential technology in healthcare, food supply, telecommunications — an endless list that post-pandemic America can no longer take for granted.

China produces or controls more than 70% of the world’s mined REs and refines more than 80%. According to one analysis , “China and Chinese controlled enterprises produce more than 99% of all so-called new REs metals.” That gives Beijing control over an increasingly important sector of the world’s economy — and tremendous leverage to exert its will.

China has shown a willingness to use economic coercion to bend other nations or corporations to its whim. From Disney to Lithuania, examples abound of the Chinese state using its industrial capacity to blackmail others. Whether it would concern a conflict over Taiwan or an effort to prevent the U.S. Congress from passing legislation regarding Beijing’s treatment of minorities, China’s dominance in the RE sector gives Beijing a potential stranglehold over the U.S. and its allies.


Codelco adds 30 years to Andina copper mine

Chile state-owned copper miner Codelco has cut the ribbon at its $1.4 billion Andina Transfer project at its namesake division, which allows the world’s largest copper producer to extend the life of the asset for another 30 years.

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Construction took eight years and includes a 52-metre-tall dome that encloses the truck unloading area

The project turned the underground operation into an open pit mine located 3,500 metres above sea level nestled in the Andes Mountains – which hold 30% of Chile’s copper reserves.

Construction took eight years and included a 52-metre-tall dome that encloses the truck unloading area, protecting the primary crusher from winter temperatures and preventing dust emissions.

Andina Transfer will also operate with a 4km underground, regenerative ore conveyor belt that will supply over 3.6MW to the division’s electricity network, reducing energy consumption from external sources.


Tianqi Lithium said to pick banks for Hong Kong listing

Tianqi Lithium Corp., a Chinese supplier of the key material used in batteries, has selected banks for a share offering in Hong Kong that could take place as soon as mid-2022, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company, whose shares already trade in Shenzhen, is working with China International Capital Corp., Morgan Stanley and CMB International on the proposed sale that could raise between $1 billion and $2 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Deliberations are ongoing and details such as the fundraising amount and timing could still change, the people said. A representative for CICC declined to comment, while Morgan Stanley, CMBI and Tianqi Lithium didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Tianqi Lithium applied for a Hong Kong listing in 2018, but the plan was shelved amid falling lithium prices and a cash squeeze following its purchase of a 24% stake in a Chilean rival for about $4 billion. The company’s performance has improved since, as the global push for electrified transport has stoked demand for lithium, which is used in rechargeable batteries.


Copper plays a role in ozone depletion –research

New research by UC Berkeley geochemists shows that copper in soil and seawater acts as a catalyst to turn organic matter into both methyl bromide and methyl chloride, two potent halocarbon compounds that destroy ozone.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists explain that sunlight worsens the situation, producing about 10 times the amount of these methyl halides.

The red metal is released into the environment from fungicides, brake pads, antifouling paints on boats and other sources.

According to the group behind the study, their findings answer, at least in part, a long-standing mystery about the origin of much of the methyl bromide and methyl chloride in the stratosphere.

They say that since the worldwide ban on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants and brominated halons used in fire extinguishers starting in 1989, these methyl halides have become the new dominant sources of ozone-depleting bromine and chlorine in the stratosphere. As the long-lived CFCs and halons slowly disappear from the atmosphere, the role of methyl halides increases.


Visualizing China’s dominance in clean energy metals

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Renewable sources of energy are expected to replace fossil fuels over the coming decades, and this large-scale transition will have a downstream effect on the demand of raw materials. More green energy means more wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries needed, and more clean energy metals necessary to build these technologies.

Today’s graphic based on data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) illustrates where the extraction and processing of key metals for the green revolution take place.

It shows that despite being the world’s biggest carbon polluter, China is also the largest producer of most of the world’s critical minerals for the green revolution.



Link for more detailed information

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