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US bank to provide £19.3m in funding for UK’s TechMet

Investment is part of a push to boost nickel and cobalt supplies for electric cars and break China’s hold over raw material supply chains

|Oct 5|magazine6 min read

The US Government Development Bank says it will invest £19.3 million in the London-based mining investment company, TechMet, as part of a push by US President Donald Trump to reduce the reliance on supply chains dominated by China.

According to a report by the Financial Times, the money from the £46.4 billion US International Development Finance Corporate will help TechMet invest in a Brazilian nickel and cobalt project that aims to supply the electric car industry.

The investment is part of a wider strategy to break China’s hold over raw material supply chains, the report says, highlighting comments made by Trump recently, calling the US’ reliance on foreign supplies of critical minerals a "national emergency" and security threat.

The DFC was formed in 2019 to provide an alternative to Chinese overseas finance in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It’s the first time the US government has invested directly in a metals and mining company, it adds. “This important financing will support economic growth in one of Brazil’s most underdeveloped areas,” Adam Boehler, chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation, says. “Investments in critical materials for advanced technology support development and advance US foreign policy,” he said.

Founded in 2017 by Brian Menell, a South African national with a background in African mining, TechMet invests in metals needed for clean energy technologies and battery recycling. 

Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, sits on its advisory board. The company has investments in battery recycling company Li-Cycle, US Vanadium, Rainbow Rare Earths, Brazilian Nickel, and Tinco, a tin and tungsten company in Africa.

The funds will be used to bring Brazilian Nickel into commercial production, Mr Menell states. The company is developing a cobalt and nickel mine in Piaui in north-eastern Brazil.

“A country’s national and industrial competitiveness will be dependent on preferential access to these raw materials,” Mr Menell says. “It’s lovely having Tesla and Panasonic but China can close them down in five and a half weeks as they have to go to China for raw materials.”

Around 65 percent of the world’s nickel and 82 percent of global cobalt for batteries come from China, consultancy Benchmark Minera Intelligence says.

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, has recently called for global mining companies to increase production of nickel to meet the company’s plans to scale up battery production. Tesla and other car manufacturers are increasing the amount of nickel used in their batteries, due to the metal helping to boost the range of electric vehicles.

TechMet article
Mining Global magazine