Asian Powers Quietly Making A Move On This Sleeper Mining Nation?

Back from Asia — a part of the world where a small but potentially important news item emerged in the mining world this week.

From the rising resource power of South Korea.

As I saw firsthand in a visit last month, Korea is moving quickly to catch up with Japan and China when it comes to international minerals investment. And this week the country announced a strategic move in a very unexpected place.

The east African nation of Madagascar.

Local Korean press quoted government officials as saying that Korea is ready to open an embassy in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo. A big step — with relations between these countries having been handled up till now by Korea’s ambassador in South Africa.

The move to a dedicated office in Madagascar is a significant signal that Korea is seeking greater involvement here. With local papers saying that the “resources-rich” nature of the island nation plays a big part in driving Korean interest.

That almost surely refers to mining. With Korea’s government resources firm Kores already involved in nickel mining at the Ambatovy mine in eastern Madagascar.

It’s widely recognized that Madagascar holds significant potential for several minerals — including gold, uranium, graphite, vanadium and beyond. But confusion over policy from the national government has led to lack of investment and development over the last five years.

That’s left Madagascar’s mineral sector somewhat up for grabs. A fact that Korea may be moving to capitalize on — using the current vacuum to get ahead of competing Asian resource powers.

Indeed, Korean president Park Geun-hye has been making passes at Africa lately, touring this part of the world in an attempt to boost trade and investment linkages. Watch to see if new deals emerge in Madagascar following the establishment of the new embassy — and for details on what specific opportunities Korean backers might be pursuing here.

Here’s to first moving,

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Dave Forest

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