Critical Cesium Supply Is Sold to China
Kitco Commentaries | Opinions, Ideas and Markets Talk
Featuring views and opinions written by market professionals, not staff journalists.
Little more than two months ago, I reported on the pending sale of America’s world monopoly in cesium, a Trump Administration-designated critical mineral, to China (Mercenary Musing, April 22, 2019).
The deal was completed on Friday, June 28 and reported in this news release: Cabot Corporation Completes Sale of Specialty Fluids Busines.
That this sale was allowed to proceed is, quite frankly, beyond me.
Admittedly the transaction was monetarily small ($135 million and a potential $5 million in royalties), and was for a very minor metal with small, specialty markets. Most cesium demand comes from a niche use in the oil and gas business whereby cesium formate brines are added to drilling fluids to prevent blow-outs in high temperature, over-pressurized wells.
In early June, the Department of Commerce tabled a comprehensive multi-agency plan to alleviate America’s dependence on rogue foreign governments for our essential metals, minerals, and materials (A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals).
And now less than four weeks later, the Chinese are in control of the world’s mine-to-market supply chain of cesium, including proprietary technologies to manufacture a variety of cesium compounds.
The USGS tracks our demand for 77 mineral commodities on an annual basis; 51 of these are significantly or nearly completely supplied by three countries: China, Russia, and South Africa. Of the 35 minerals designated “critical” by the US in early 2018, we are beholden to China for 21 (with cesium recently added to the list), and Russia supplies an additional eight.
Frankly, I am disgusted by this recent development. I must conclude that the Trump executive branch is talking out of both sides of its mouth on the problem and its proposed solutions to America’s dangerous dependence on rogue nations to meet our mineral demands.
China and Russia have been America’s sworn enemies since becoming communist dictatorships in the early to mid-20th Century. Given their current fascist and anti-republican regimes with rulers empowered for life, both countries are destined to remain so for the foreseeable future.
It is imperative that we reduce our dependency for raw materials that drive our industrial base and economic health and that we start now.
Note that I will be speaking on this very subject at the upcoming Sprott Resource Investment Conference in Vancouver, July 30 to August 2. I hope you are able to attend.