'Rare-earth minerals could be bigger than coal'- Molale

Molale speaks at a panel during the Mining Indaba on Wednesday. On his left are the Zambian and Malawian mining ministers, Richard Musukwa and Aggrey Masi PIC: MBONGENI NGUNI
Molale speaks at a panel during the Mining Indaba on Wednesday. On his left are the Zambian and Malawian mining ministers, Richard Musukwa and Aggrey Masi PIC: MBONGENI NGUNI

CAPE TOWN: The country’s soils could contain substantial quantities of rare-earth minerals and government is shifting its focus to the highly lucrative sector, which it describes as a game changer that could be “bigger than coal,” BusinessWeek has learnt.

Rare earth minerals are a group of 17 highly valued elements with applications including fuel cells, components of electric vehicles, magnets for hybrid cars and other technology. Coal, meanwhile, is estimated to be in the order of 200 billion tonnes in Botswana, with only one mine currently operational. Other players are at various stages of development across the country.

Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Minister, Eric Molale told BusinessWeek here on Wednesday that the government was advancing the development of rare earth minerals as they were the future of technology and represented a significant opportunity for beneficiation. “They will become bigger than coal because that has become the pariah of the world,” he said on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba.

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