‘Really not looking good’: US-backed minerals investor warns of low prices

By Hannah Northey | 03/13/2024 01:37 PM EDT

In a Q&A, Brian Menell, the founder of TechMet, talks about the economic headwinds facing the U.S. critical minerals sector.

Brian Menell

Brian Menell is the founder and CEO of TechMet. TechMet Ltd.

Cratering prices for electric vehicle battery metals — not the complicated politics around the energy transition — will be the biggest test for the United States’ bid to challenge Chinese dominance in the sector, a top mining CEO said recently.

Brian Menell, the founder of TechMet, an investment firm partially owned by the federal government, said low mineral prices are fueling layoffs and delaying projects that the U.S. and its allies need to come online in the next four years. This is happening even as China accelerates investments and tightens its grip on materials like cobalt and nickel.

Menell, whose family has long been a dominant player in the global mining sector, predicted that even former President Donald Trump, should he be reelected to a second term, will need to counter China’s growing hold on critical minerals. Trump has pledged to repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act — President Joe Biden’s signature climate law, which aims to both juice EV adoption and create domestic mineral supply chains.


But Menell said that is not his main concern, emphasizing instead that China’s strategic advantage, including state support for companies, means the industry needs more from the U.S. and state governments.