US Seeks to Secure Critical Minerals from Africa Amid Growing Demand

The US is increasingly turning to Africa to secure critical minerals for weapons and national security, raising concerns over environmental and social impacts. The US must balance mineral supply with sustainable practices.

Dil Bar Irshad
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US Seeks to Secure Critical Minerals from Africa Amid Growing Demand

US Seeks to Secure Critical Minerals from Africa Amid Growing Demand

With the global demand for critical minerals surging, the United States is increasingly turning to African nations to secure supplies for weapons manufacturing and national security. Africa is home to an estimated 30% of the world's mineral reserves, including critical minerals like cobalt, lithium, and rare earth elements, worth an estimated $2.4 trillion.

The US has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to develop a regional value chain in the electric vehicle battery sector, challenging the dominance of China and other traditional consumers of Zambian exports. The agreement aims to ensure that cobalt extracted or processed with the use of child or forced labor in the DRC does not enter the US market.

However, mining activities in the region are often unsustainable and inflict costs on local communities , with widespread air pollution, water pollution, and environmental degradation. Despite the existence of policies and regulations to ensure sustainable mining, local communities often lack tangible benefits from the extraction of critical minerals.

Why this matters:The US's reliance on critical minerals from Africa for weapons manufacturing and national security highlights the geopolitical significance of these resources. As the global race for mineral security intensifies, the US must navigate the challenges of securing supplies while addressing the environmental and social impacts of mining activities in African nations.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has introduced legislation aimed at preventing the entry of cobalt extracted or processed with the use of child or forced labor in the DRC into the US market. The bill, titled the "Stop China's Exploitation of Congolese Children and Adult Forced Labor through Cobalt Mining Act," would require the US Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to investigate the use of forced labor in the DRC's cobalt mining industry and develop a strategy to prevent such cobalt from entering the US market.

The US is aware of the challenge posed by the potential shortage of critical minerals and has taken steps to expand secure sources of supply, including through partnerships with African countries like the DRC and Zambia. South Africa is also a significant supplier of critical minerals to the US, and the US cannot afford to damage its relationship with the country.

With the US seeking to replenish its stockpiles of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, amid ongoing conflicts, the importance of critical minerals, increasingly, important, us becomes increasingly evident. The US must navigate the geopolitical landscape and work with African nations to ensure a stable and sustainable supply of these vital resources.

Key Takeaways

  • US turns to Africa for critical minerals to secure weapons, national security.
  • US signs MoU with Zambia, DRC to develop EV battery supply chain, avoid child/forced labor.
  • Mining activities in Africa often unsustainable, harm local communities with pollution, degradation.
  • US Rep. Smith introduces bill to prevent cobalt from DRC with child/forced labor from entering US.
  • US seeks to expand secure sources of critical minerals, including partnerships with African nations.