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German industry gears up for global resource competition

In an effort to secure access to critical metals and minerals, Germany’s national industrial association, the Federation of German Industry (BDI) is exploring the formation of a “globally active profit-oriented raw materials corporation.”

As the German monthly Manager Magazin reports, the envisioned procurement trust, which companies like chemicals maker Evonik and auto manufacturer Daimler have already pledged to partially fund, would, as a first step, focus on the exploration of rare earths elements (REEs), tungsten and coking coal. The next stage would likely involve resource development, manufacture, and sale with preferred purchasing rights for member companies.

The BDI assumes that for the project to be successful – and as a sign of how critical these metals are even as the German treasury is under pressure as the chief supporter of Eurozone bailouts – investments of more than one billion Euros would be necessary over the course of the next five to ten years.

The German government, which, according to the association has already asked the BDI to examine investment in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, is expected to pick up part of the tab.  BDI member companies are currently reviewing the plans. If approved, a contract could be signed Nov. 17, and the resource alliance could formally launch on January 1, 2012.

While certainly ambitious, the BDI’s move is hardly surprising in light of China’s tightening of export restrictions for rare earths and rising cost for critical mineral resources in general. It should, however, serve as a wakeup call for U.S. policy makers that other nations won’t wait for the U.S. as they position themselves in the global race for resources.