Germany to invest $4 bn in Kazakhstan in exchange for mining rare earths

Germany yesterday agreed to invest €3 billion ($4 billion) in technological and other investments in Kazakhstan in exchange for German companies getting the right to explore and mine rare earths, used for everything from halogen lights to precision-guided missiles, on which China currently has a stranglehold.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan signed a strategic partnership that guarantees German companies the right to explore and mine rare earths and other raw materials in Kazakhstan in exchange for investments worth €3 billion in 50 technological and companies.

The deal includes German engineering giant Siemens upgrading and modernising the former Soviet state's rail system, and other smaller deals from German industrial gases group Linde, chemicals group Lanxess and steel giant ThyssenKrupp.

The German move comes after Europe's largest economy signed a similar deal in October 2011 with Mongolia, which also holds vast undeveloped reserves of minerals including rare earths.

Kazakhstan holds large amount of uranium deposits and is an emerging leader in producing the yellow cake required by nuclear plants. It also has the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East and has recently begun to exploit and explore its rare earths deposits.

Its abundant mineral wealth has enabled its economy to post strong growth rates over the past seven years, spurred by the rising prices of commodities.