By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Chinese consortium acquired a fifteen percent stake in the Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (Brazilian Metallurgy and Mining Company, CMBB) in September 2011, it has been revealed, the world’s biggest producer of niobium, a rare and strategically important metallic element.

Niobium, Brazil News
Some experts say Brazil has 98 percent of the world's exploitable reserves of niobium, photo by Heinrich Pniok/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The consortium bought its stake in the Minas Gerais-based company, part of the Moreira Salles Group, for US$1.95 billion.

Some experts have questioned Brazil’s own strategic interests after giving such a big stake to China, and recommended that Brazil place more importance on its reserves of the precious metal, as it appears to be underselling the metal.

“The price on the London Metal Exchange is merely symbolic,” said National Defense League member Ronaldo Schlichting, adding that given Brazil’s position as practically the world’s only producer it was “like selling a barrel of oil for $1”.

Other Asian giants appear to be vying for their stake in the precious metal, after a Japanese-Korean consortium also bought a fifteen-percent stake in March 2011 for US$1.8 billion.

Niobium is strategically important as it has uses in nuclear, defense, gas distribution and electronics industries, among others – often as an alloy in steel products, but also as a so-called “superalloy” which operate in high temperatures in the turbines of jet engines.

Some sources say there are untapped reserves in a number of other countries, including some in Africa.

Read more in Portuguese.

* The Rio Times Daily Update is a new feature we are offering to help keep you up-to-date with major news as it happens.


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