S. African rare earth mine hopes for boost from US-China feud

A general view of Steenkampskraal (SKK) rare-earth mine on July 29, 2019, about 80Km from the Western Cape town of Vanrhynsdorp. (AFP)
Updated 26 August 2019

S. African rare earth mine hopes for boost from US-China feud

  • Rare earth elements are a group of 17 minerals unique for their magnetic, catalytic and electrochemical properties

CAPE TOWN: It’s old, doesn’t look like much and is located well out the way in an arid part of western South Africa.
But the Steenkampskraal Mine may be about to become piping hot mining property thanks to some of the world’s highest-grade deposits of rare earth metals.
“Steenkampskraal will become a very important source of rare earths for the global industry,” Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal Holdings Limited, said during a recent tour.
The mine, located about 350 km north of Cape Town, used to produce thorium, a component of nuclear fuel, in the 1950s and 60s.
But now it’s been found to also have monazite ore which contains extremely high grade rare earth minerals including neodymium and praseodymium — elements vital to cutting-edge industries.
Manufacturing uses range from tinted welding goggles to industrial magnets, strong alloys for aircraft engines, military hardware, hybrid cars, consumer electronic devices, medical equipment and even the flints in cigarette lighters.

‘Tech minerals’
China produces the largest share of “tech minerals,” with a domestic output of 120,000 tons in 2018. That’s vastly more than the US, which relies on China for about 80 percent of its rare-earth imports.
But now Beijing has threatened to cut off the supply as trade frictions mount, prompting US President Donald Trump to give the Pentagon an executive order to find other sources of the crucial elements.

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 minerals unique for their magnetic, catalytic and electrochemical properties.
For the first time since 1985, China last year became a net importer of some rare earths for its industrial needs, while the government cracked down on illegal exploration and production.
Global sales of electric cars, which need the minerals, jumped by 68 percent in 2018 to 5.12 million, with China selling over a million vehicles, according to the International Energy Agency.

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17 - Rare earth elements are a group of 17 minerals unique for their magnetic, catalytic and electrochemical properties.

“China may, as a result of its own requirements, just export less and less to the rest of the world,” Blench said.
Steenkampskraal Mine could just be the answer to growing demand, he suggested.
“About 14 percent of this rock is rare earths. That is an extraordinarily high grade and we don’t know anything like it on the planet,” Blench said, holding a small but heavy reddish brown rock.
Worldwide, many mines have around six percent or less rare earths in their ore.
No mines for rare earth elements currently operate in South Africa, but the government confirms the presence of yet-to-be tapped tech minerals.
“South Africa is certainly on par with any other country that would lay a claim to being able to supply rare earths elements to meet this increasing demand,” said mineralogist Deshenthree Chetty at Mintek, a government mineral and metallurgy research department.
She added that it would be “a great deal for our country to be able to supply, and we are in a position to do so, as long as those markets are favorable.”
“We have an abundance of rocks in which rare earth elements are found,” Mosa Mabuza, CEO of the Council for GeoScience, which surveys mineral deposits, told AFP.


Getting more women into leadership positions top priority: CEO

This June 23, 2018 photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2020

Getting more women into leadership positions top priority: CEO

  • Saudi Arabia is focusing on the Business 20 (B20), making this one of the key engagement groups. Women in Business will be Saudi Arabia’s signature topic

RIYADH: The boss of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest banks says that getting more women into leadership positions is a top priority.
Samba CEO Rania Nashar chairs the action council for Women in Business created by the Business Twenty (B20), which is the official G20 dialogue with the business community. It represents the global business community across all G20 member states and all economic sectors.
She said the council was set up to boost women’s particpation not only in business but also in global leadership positions.
During the launch of the B20 in Saudi Arabia this week, Nashar highlighted the under-representation of women in the economy.
“There is a gap of 27 percent between male and female workers; 75 percent of males are part of the labor force while only 48 percent of females are working,” she said.
She said it was important not to just talk about women as workers but as business owners.

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Saudi Arabia will host the 15th G20 Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 21-22, 2020.

“That’s why entrepreneurship is very fundamental to our task force,” she said.  “The majority of the finance development programs have incentives for giving loans to females; however, despite the fact that many large borrowers are females, the amount of loans granted to them is far below what is granted to males,” she added.
Nashar said that two-thirds of female business founders feel that they were not taken seriously by investors when they pitch for investments. They also feel that they are treated differently from their male counterparts.
Saudi Arabia will host the 15th G20 Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 21-22, 2020. The Kingdom is focusing on the Business 20 (B20), making this one of the key engagement groups. Women in Business will be Saudi Arabia’s signature topic.