US, Saudi Arabia in talks to secure metals in Africa, Wall Street Journal reports

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Lisa Baertlein | Reuters

The United States and Saudi Arabia are in talks to secure metals in Africa needed to help them with their energy transitions, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people with knowledge of the talks.

A state-backed Saudi venture would buy stakes in mining assets worth $15 billion in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Namibia, which will permit U.S. companies to have rights to buy some of the production, the report added.

The U.S. is in a race to catch up with China for supplies of cobalt, lithium and other metals that are used in electric car batteries, laptops and smartphones.

In a similar arrangement in July, Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma’aden) (1211.SE) and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) acquired 10% of Brazilian Vale’s base metal unit, while U.S. investment firm Engine No. 1 acquired 3%.

The newspaper said the PIF approached Congo in June about investing in cobalt, copper and tantalum in the country via its $3 billion joint venture with Ma’aden called Manara Minerals.

Manara is also focusing on iron ore, nickel and lithium.

The White House is seeking the financial backing of other sovereign-wealth funds in the region, but talks with Saudi Arabia have progressed the farthest, the Journal added.

The Saudi government and The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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