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US courts Mongols in search for rare metals

US and Mongolian officials have discussed “creative ways” this week to ensure that the landlocked country, which relies on the goodwill of its neighbors China and Russia, can bring essential minerals to the global market, according to a US State Department official on Friday.

Prime Minister L. Oyun-Erdene told Reuters on Wednesday, after a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, that Mongolia would deepen cooperation with the United States in the extraction of rare earth metals and other minerals with high-tech applications.

On Friday, he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and signed an “Open Skies” agreement for civil aviation, with both parties committing to further economic cooperation.

A US State Department official briefing reporters said that the national airline, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, could potentially fly directly to a yet-to-be-decided US airport next year.

The two parties also discussed how to follow up on a memorandum of understanding signed in June by the State Department and Mongolia’s Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry.

“The many discussions we’ve had over the past few days have been about specific areas where we can help Mongolia understand what it has, how to extract it, and how to produce it,” said the official.

“We’re certainly eager to help the Mongolians come up with creative solutions that give them more control over mining, exploration, extraction, and production of critical minerals and rare earth elements.”

Asked how to ensure Mongolia can export such resources unimpeded, the official said the country is in a “difficult geopolitical situation” being landlocked. “So we’ve talked about … very creative ways we can make that … available to the market.”

Rare earth metals and copper are crucial for high-tech applications, including defense equipment, and for US President Joe Biden’s efforts to electrify the automotive market to address climate change.

The United States is keen to seek alternative sources other than its biggest rival, China, which accounted for over 70% of the world’s rare earth metals production last year.

About the author: Rick Culpepper

Rick Culpepper is of those journalists who dig the topic to the very bottom. He is often late with the delivery of the piece, but always does it perfectly. In his spare time, he collects data for one of the most high-profile investigations of corruption in the EU.

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