Brian Menell, South African Mining Veteran wants to build a battery metals giant

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Bloomberg reports that to help challenge China’s domination of the industry, South African mining veteran Brian Menell wants to build a battery material giant.

Menell’s company, TechMet Ltd, which controls just a handful of assets from Canada to Rwanda, is raising more money and sees countries such as the United States and Japan as potential partners to help catch up to China in the rapidly growing industry. The company plans to provide battery grade supplies of everything from tin and tungsten to nickel and cobalt.

Menell, who started his mining career with diamond giant De Beers in the 1980s and whose family built one of South Africa’s largest mining companies, said “there’s a degree of urgency now”. He noted that it should be considered a problem that China has dominated supply of these materials for about 15 years.

China dominates rare earth output, but is now grabbing more control in markets such as tungsten and cobalt. The western world is dependent on the country for many of the materials needed for batteries and demand is growing.

Menell however sees an opportunity to compete in the market, especially when In 2017, President Trump ordered the United States to curb its dependence on external supplies of what the country calls ‘critical minerals’. TechMet already has stakes in a tin and tungsten mine in Rwanda, a nickel project in Brazil, a U.S. vanadium processing plant and a recycling facility in Canada that extracts cobalt and nickel from spent lithium batteries.

TechMet is backed by high net worth investors and will start another round of fundraising to raise about $80 million. After which, Menell says he plans to further invest as much as $400 million in three years, with an end goal of selling shares in a $1 billion initial public offering in five years.

During an interview at his London office, Menell said “there’s something of a race to capture this industry. We want to be as big as possible as soon as possible.”

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