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Resource Wars: China makes forays into resource-rich Chile

According to The Australian, China is stepping up its quest for access to mineral resources in Latin America, with Chile being a key focal point. While Chile’s vibrant resources sector has long attracted international miners (most recently, see the tie-up between Chile’s Molymet and the U.S.’s Molycorp), and the country traditionally maintained close relations with Europe and the U.S., Australia’s ambassador to Chile notes a deliberate shift in allegiances on the part of Chilean government and educational institutions for more than a decade – away from their traditional close allies, towards Australia, New Zealand and Finland.

Australian junior miners have taken advantage of these ties; however, more recently, they’re facing stiff competition from China. One of China’s first forays into Chile comes via an Australian-listed company – Chinese-backed Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources, which has high hopes of finding significant copper deposits while benefiting from the government’s decidedly pro-mining stance and strong support for junior miners. However, expect more Chinese involvement in Latin America soon.

Noting that China appears to be leaving Africa’s resource-rich regions, Matias Mori, executive vice-President of Chile’s foreign investment committee, says the country is actively “courting” interest from China, and expects deals to be signed in the near future: “China will happen, but we’re not sure when. It could be either this year or next.”

As other nations reformulate their resource policies to reflect the new realities of a global race for the world’s mineral riches, Washington, DC remains mired in gridlock and, with few exceptions, policy makers fail to acknowledge the urgency of our critical mineral supply issues. Perhaps with China moving from Africa into South America the realization that we can’t afford to sit idly on the sidelines will finally sink in.