Economic & Industrial

Chinese miners eye overseas deals after battery metals slump

Chinese miners eye overseas deals after battery metals slump
Battery metal prices are on the floor, and massive expansions by Chinese miners have been instrumental in driving them lower. Now, with many Western rivals cutting output or shutting down entirely, they want to get even bigger.

Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s most valuable producer, said this week it’s planning acquisitions of “ultra-large mines or mining companies with global influence” to boost business in lithium and other metals.

CMOC Group, which last year overtook Glencore as the world’s top cobalt producer, said the return of “rational” pricing in battery metals opened a window for global acquisitions.

Attention will now turn to what Tianqi Lithium Corp. and Ganfeng Lithium Corp., which report results in coming days, say on the matter.

The miners’ opportunistic growth plans should give pause to traders, investors and rival producers hoping for an imminent rebound in battery-metal prices. They also may add to the alarms in Western capitals about China’s stranglehold on many critical minerals.

Even with landmark spending packages rolled out by the US and European Union, there’s a strong chance China’s dominance in cobalt, nickel and lithium will be greater in a few years. Tsingshan Holding Group Co., the world’s top nickel producer, is also pushing ahead with expansion.

Zijin, for one, expects resistance. Chairman Chen Jinghe said the company “will be targeted for sure” as geopolitical tensions become “increasingly grim.”

Even so, these are raw materials that will be needed in ever-greater volumes as the energy transition gathers pace, regardless of who mines them.

Efforts to curb China’s expansion through diplomatic and legal means will likely continue, but for the good of the planet, politicians’ time might be better spent focusing on efforts to keep pace.

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