Is Africa’s rare-earth rush a blessing or a curse?

By Arthur Beaubois-Jude, Matthieu Millecamps
Posted on Thursday, 22 September 2022 13:22

photo by JA/TAR

To move away from Western dependence on China, the rare earth sector’s undisputed leader, the time has come for an all-out search for new sources of supply. And Africa is at the centre of this battle.

The technology sectors – led by smartphones – have driven an explosion in demand for rare earths, but in addition, more supplies are needed to meet the growing needs of so-called green industries. A single wind turbine requires more than 1tn of rare-earth elements and electric-car engines are equally greedy. This is a paradox at a time when the urgency of climate change requires a drastic reduction in the growth and operations of extractive industries.

Projects and takeovers

Not a week goes by without the signing of a concession contract or an international company purchasing a rare-earth mining project in Africa. The sums involved give an idea of what is at stake.