A newly built plant in Democratic Republic of Congo aims to produce 30% of the world’s germanium, according to its owner, potentially easing China’s dominance of the metal used in electronics and solar cells.
(Bloomberg) — A newly built plant in Democratic Republic of Congo aims to produce 30% of the world’s germanium, according to its owner, potentially easing China’s dominance of the metal used in electronics and solar cells.
China produces about 60% of germanium, according to Critical Raw Materials Alliance. The Asian nation restricted exports of the metal in August amid an escalation of a tit-for-tat trade war on technology with the US and Europe.
The hydrometallurgical facility in the country’s southeast was inaugurated on Wednesday by Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi. The plant will produce germanium, zinc oxide, copper and cobalt out of mining waste from a nearby tailings site known as Big Hill, according to its website. The operation is run by Societe Congolaise pour le Traitement du Terril de Lubumbashi, or STL, a unit of state-owned miner Gecamines.
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STL’s website claim of producing 30% of the global supply of germanium is notable: the silvery white metal is used in fiber-optic communication, night-vision goggles and space exploration. Most satellites are powered with germanium-based solar cells. And China controls much of the world’s supply of the metal seen as critical to strategic industries.
Congo, which is already the world’s largest source of key battery mineral cobalt and a top-three producer of copper, is showing its ambitions of becoming a larger player for germanium with its new STL operation.
–With assistance from Mark Burton.
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