‘We will invest in projects that have a defined resource and at least a prefeasibility study, through to assets in production with expansion potential’
WHERE Brian Menell has an edge over all the other investors scrambling to put money into potentially viable critical minerals is that he has personal experience, and a long family tradition, of doing business in Africa. Many deposits of the kind of minerals that are needed to produce batteries and other systems associated with the green energy transition are to be found in less-developed countries, where regulations are often vague and ever-changing. This is a major deterrent to US and European (but not Chinese) investors, who expect transparency and consistency.
Menell doesn’t shy away from places like Brazil, Rwanda and South Africa. He says investment in any country is a matter of familiarity, knowledge, networks and being able to assess and manage risk to realise value from investments. TechMet proceeds cautiously, and it is highly diversified – as it heads for the magic $1bn valuation mark. In 2022, it paid its first dividend and last year successfully raised another $200m in equity funding. As an investor in these minerals, TechMet not only earns profits (if it manages them successfully) but also becomes more influential. One of its investors is the US International Development Finance Corporation, which is looking at how to secure supply of critical minerals that are largely controlled by China at present.
TechMet holds a stake in LSE-listed Rainbow Rare Earths, developer of the Phalaborwa project to extract rare earths from phosphogypsum stacks, and has an option to raise its stake in the project to between 15% and 33%. Rainbow’s US partner is K-Tech, which was recently invited to give input at a US Congress hearing into US critical minerals supply.
LIFE OF BRIAN
He’s a former executive director of Anglovaal Mining, which was established by the Menell and Hersov families in the 1930s. He and his brother sold their interests in Anglovaal to African Rainbow Minerals in the early 2000s. Brian started his career at De Beers in 1988 before moving to Anglovaal. After the sale of the family’s stake, he started a company, Kemet Group, which has invested in various natural resources projects in Africa. He established TechMet in 2017. Brian holds a BA (Hons) from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Science and Economics.