At the present juncture, basically nobody would be surprised to hear that military conflicts and political crises revolve around strategic resources and transport corridors. Washington doesn’t make a big secret out of the fact that its foreign policy is driven by its craving for hydrocarbons together with a number of other resources. So if at any given moment bombs or cruise missiles start raining from the sky, you can be confident that the self-proclaimed “champions of democracy” have come to steal something valuable from your country.
As the technological progress keeps rushing forward at breakneck pace, the world economy discovers that it is in dire need of resources that previously weren’t considered to be of strategic importance. Thus, rare earth minerals have become a top priority for such companies as Tesla, Apple, Google, Toyota, BMW, General Motors, Nissan, Ford and the list goes on. However, Washington didn’t anticipate this shift that is why it’s going to make an attempt of establishing control over the largest discovered deposits of this resource, so you can be confident that tanks are going to get rolling pretty soon.
According to economic analysts, world prices for rare earth minerals have been skyrocketing for over a decade now, as they are at least 20 times more expensive these days than they were back in 2008.
It’s curious that China is the leading producers of rare earth minerals and that it holds a sort of a monopoly on their production. As for the US, it depends on overseas suppliers of this resource, with China being in control of the majority of shipments of processed rare earth minerals to the US.
Among the regions where there’s an abundance of discovered deposits of rare earth minerals one can name Africa, with the Republic of South Africa alone occupying sixth place on the list of states with largest discovered deposits. So it’s only natural that this continent is going to become a new center of geopolitical struggle between the leading international players.
However, if relatively poor states are to going to find themselves in possession of deposits of rare earth minerals it doesn’t mean that they’re going to get rich overnight. In fact, one can safely expect quite the opposite, as it means that those states are going to be plunged in a state of perpetual chaos with bloodshed and famine becoming a daily occurrence for their inhabitants. At this point, the struggle for rare earth minerals is capable of provoking a global conflict, as it’s safe to say that one state that is going to establish control over this resource is going to dominate the global economy.
Previously, yours truly has already made an attempt to take a look at what Washington was up to in Africa. The fact that the US recognizes the strategic importance of rare earth minerals can be derived from the order that the Pentagon issued to the Defense Logistic Agency‘s Strategic Materials department, demanding it to ensure availability of rare earth minerals for American military contractors at all times. That is why Washington is in a hurry to expand its influence across the African continent with new US bases emerging here and there with each passing month. Additionally, the number of military conflicts where US servicemen are directly engaged in armed hostilities across African keeps rising. The US is determined to increase its mining operations around the world, thanks to a constant infusion of intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency.
However, it seems that British intelligence agencies were far ahead of their American counterparts, as UK’s Rainbow Rare Earths started producing rare earth minerals in Burundi as early as in 2017. At the same time, the struggle over the control of discovered reserves in Zimbabwe is still ongoing.
As for the Republic of the Congo, the struggle for control over its natural resources attracted such players as Rwanda, Uganda, Israel, Japan, China and, of course, the United States. Those players are fighting each other both economically and politically in a bid to come out on top, while a number of them keeps arming local tribes that are fighting each other over other people’s money.
However, the Republic of the Congo is not the only one to suffer, as similar struggles can be observed across all of the central African states, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. It turned out that at least 64% of all discovered world reserves of Cobalt are shared among the above mentioned states. That’s where the exploitation of minors comes into play, as child labor is a common occurrence around here, as it’s used extensively in the extraction of those minerals.
As it’s been revealed in an extensive research conducted by the Washington Post, Apple happens to be among the ones responsible for those deadly mines. In particular, it states:
The Post traced this cobalt pipeline and, for the first time, showed how cobalt mined in these harsh conditions ends up in popular consumer products. It moves from small-scale Congolese mines to a single Chinese company — Congo DongFang International Mining, part of one of the world’s biggest cobalt producers, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt — that for years has supplied some of the world’s largest battery makers. They, in turn, have produced the batteries found inside products such as Apple’s iPhones — a finding that calls into question corporate assertions that they are capable of monitoring their supply chains for human rights abuses or child labor.
Thus, you can be confident that every iPhone sold bears a trace of child sweat and blood.
All this shows that the struggle for Africa is just picking up steam, as large corporations are going to stop at nothing in a bid to establish control over the increasingly valuable resource. It’s been reported that intelligence agencies all across the globe started monitoring the use of such words as Europium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Yttrium, Samarium along with other rare earth minerals in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage over other international players.
As the world becomes more and more dependent on high-tech, it’s only natural that the struggle for Africa is going to get much more brutal. And you can be confident that the self-proclaimed “champions of democracy” are going to ride this wave of bloodshed and suffering, just like they usually do.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”