SA mine stands to benefit from US-China trade war

By Doug Mattushek - 25 August 2019Views : 479

A mine in a South African backwater stands to become one of the most lucrative operations in the near future.

The Steenkampskraal Mine is situated 80km from the Western Cape Town of Vanrhynsdorp, one of the most arid parts of Mzansi. But beneath the red soil lies its true value.

The Citizen reports that the rock is full of monazite, which contains extremely high grade rare earth minerals including neodymium and praseodymium. These elements are used in manufacturing industries as they are in everything from tinted welding goggles, to industrial magnets, hybrid cars, military hardware and many electronic devices.

The mine has suddenly become important on a global scale due to ongoing tensions between the United States and China. The US imports around 80% of its rare earth metals from China, but this is changing after President Donald Trump gave the pentagon an executive order just last month to seek new sources.

This is where Steenkampskraal comes in.

"Steenkampskraal will become a very important source of rare earths for the global industry," Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal Holdings Limited, told The Citizen.

"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."

Mines elsewhere contain around 6% or less of rare earth metals in their ore.

The potential of the mine and South Africa's rare earth element yield was also acknowledged Mintek mineralogist Deshenthree Chetty.

"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 Chetty.

"[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 favourable."