Minister Bathiudeen (second from left) greets Chen Hong (second from right) as Dr Palitha Kohona (left) looks on

A global industry conglomerate from China’s mainland has last week announced it is ready to take a lead role in Sri Lanka’s strategic minerals giving the much-needed boost to the outlook of Sri Lanka’s mineral sector, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said.
“We are looking for outright purchase of any mineral sands and graphite production of Sri Lanka,” said President of Beijing’s SSG International Holding Group, Chen Hong when he met Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen last week.

Hong was joined by his facilitators to Sri Lanka, Dr Palitha Kohona and Nanda Kohona as well as four SSGIHG senior officials.

The diversified conglomerate SSGIHG has its hands on a vast array of sectors-among them are mineral exploration & mining, tourism, automotives, shopping malls, new energy (non-ferrous energy storage, R&D) etc. Among SSGIHG’s project and finance partners are the global investment bank UBS Group AG, China’s third-biggest brokerage Guotai Junan Securities Co, and Forbes listed and Deutsche Bank partnered Hua Xia Bank.
“We believe that Sri Lanka has rare earth element deposits but can do better. We think Sri Lanka is not getting the best price for them in international markets and we can help Sri Lankan mineral sector to earn more in their exports. We are also interested in new energy partnering,” Hong said.

Responding to Hong’s remarks, Minister Bathiudeen said that according to the vision of the government, the idea is to transform state owned firms such as Lanka Mineral Sands and Graphite firms towards profit -making entities.

“Though these are under the purview of my Ministry we cannot divest them fully as they are public assets and are also engaged on our strategic Rare Earth Elements (REE), generating income. However, we are interested in technology upgrade, and investment partnership that can help these firms to get better global prices for the strategic minerals they produce. Therefore, any partnerships with specialized firms such as SSGIHG that supports strong value addition to the strategic mineral and gets us better prices are great win-wins for us.”

China has been the number one global buyer of Lankan Mineral Sands in the last few years. The 123,000 tons of global rare earth production (2010) is estimated to grow 300% through 2017, due to increased international demand for green technologies.