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India is stepping up its plans to acquire key mineral resources in Africa, challenging China’s dominance

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India is looking to expand its critical mineral operations in Africa, with resource security and reversing China’s imbalance in the region key. It has signed memorandums of understanding with at least eight African countries for mining cooperation, including access to resources.

Countries included include South Africa, Mozambique, Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe. The main focus remains on critical minerals such as copper, cobalt, niobium, graphite, titanium and lithium.

Some U.S. lobbying groups say China now controls about 8 percent of Africa’s resources, a figure they say is up from a 2018 estimate.

Major countries

Indeed, the competition for critical minerals is largely centred around cobalt and copper, the key metals in EV battery manufacturing, outside of lithium. Congo and Zambia appear to be key areas of interest for Western and Asian countries.

So far, few Western mining companies have ventured into the recovering Copperbelt region (northern Zambia and southern Congo), despite political risks, poor infrastructure and, in some cases, questions about artisanal mining, and few have survived.

US producer Freeport-McMoRan began production at the Tenke Fungure copper and cobalt mine in 2009. It sold its stake to CMOC in 2016, giving Chinese companies their first foothold in Congo.

India ups the ante

Meanwhile, India is trying to increase its presence in the region primarily through a combination of G2G negotiations (allowing mining on a nomination basis) and private sector interests (allowing direct investment by companies).

The discussions cover aspects such as exploration for resources and mines in a particular country, and consideration of the possibility of acquisition, including processing, of some of the minerals and their subsequent commercial sale.

Just in February, India signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire on cooperation in the fields of geology and mineral resources.

“We are looking at mineral deposits in African countries and are considering signing memorandums of understanding in the area of ​​mining, particularly critical minerals,” said an official familiar with the talks. Business Line.

For example, in Tanzania, India is seeking access to resources such as niobium and graphite, while in Zimbabwe lithium is a potential target, as are copper and cobalt in Congo and Zambia.

China’s presence

In Congo, China is said to control more than 5% of the cobalt processing facilities.

Chinese companies are estimated to own an 80% stake in the Tenke Hungurume mine, which produces about 12% of the world’s resources, and in a recent announcement, China has acquired about 95% of Kinsaf, an undeveloped cobalt and copper project.

Zimbabwe is seeing significant investment from China to secure lithium.

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