Germany Gets Interested In Mongolia’s Critical Minerals
In an effort to lessen Germany's dependency on Russia and China, Chancellor Olaf Scholtz informed visiting Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene that the country wants to buy raw commodities from Mongolia, particularly copper and rare earths.
In response, Oyun-Erdene offered Scholtz to engage in the critical minerals sector beyond mining, including processing and value-added product development.
Germany has been working to strengthen ties in the mining sector with Mongolia for over a decade, with Chancellor Angela Merkel visiting twice in the 2010s. A German Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology was founded, and it has since been training highly qualified graduates with European accreditation.
Germany is significantly reliant on raw material imports, particularly metals used in the country's huge automobile sector. More raw materials will be required when German automakers such as Audi and Volkswagen convert fully to making electric vehicles with lithium batteries.
Mongolia is well-positioned to supply the varied raw material needs of German manufacturers. Mongolians see Germans as their most important European partners, owing to their historical ties to East Germany during the Soviet era.
However, hurdles remain for Mongolian-German cooperation to expand meaningfully, particularly in the area of rare earths.
Mining and processing rare earth materials cause significant environmental harm as well as radioactive dangers, which may provoke opposition from herders and rural communities, on whom elected officials depend.
Furthermore, rare earth manufacturing is far more complex than copper and other precious metal production, owing to the fact that individual rare earth elements, which are mined in groups, must be separated from one another.
It is also expensive and time-consuming to conduct lab studies to determine the most efficient and cost-effective way of recovering rare earths from ore.
The largest issue for Mongolia is how to deliver rare earth minerals and metals to Germany. Mongolia is landlocked between Russia and China and the distance from Germany is more than 6,000 kilometers.
Amar Adiya is editor-in-chief of Mongolia Weekly.