US says it must work with Latin America more on key minerals

Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez. Credit: US Embassy & Consulates in Brazil

The US needs to bolster its cooperation with Latin American countries in obtaining reliable supplies of critical minerals, a senior State Department official told lawmakers.

Asked about growing links between Brazil and other countries in the region with China in the development of mineral supplies and electric vehicle batteries, State Department Undersecretary Jose Fernandez said, “This is a perfect example of why we need to get more involved, and why we’ve created the Minerals Security Partnership,” an effort among 14 countries and the European Union to collaborate on critical minerals production and processing.

“Brazil could be a very valuable partner in finding critical minerals,” Fernandez added. “It’s not only Brazil. Argentina, Chile, Peru — we’ve got to do more in this hemisphere.” He spoke in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on addressing economic coercion and increasing competitiveness.

The Biden administration has begun a push to diversify the US’ sources of important goods and materials and to reduce dependency on China. The world’s second-biggest economy refines about 68% of nickel globally, 40% of copper, 59% of lithium and 73% of cobalt, according to a study published last year by the Brookings Institution. These are among minerals necessary for a green-energy transition.

Brazil is already being mined for metals including copper and nickel used to make batteries in other countries, and it sits on relevant reserves of lithium. Argentina, meanwhile, is the world’s fastest-growing producer of lithium.

(By Christopher Condon)


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