Power

There’s a president who’s sure, all that glitters is niobium

niobium
Photo: RHJ Photo and Illustration

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is not a gifted orator. When speaking in public, he speaks in a truncated drone, preferring dry teleprompter-assisted statements to expressive addresses. There is one subject, however, that makes Mr. Bolsonaro’s eyes light up, sparking a childlike excitement and fascination: a chemical element called niobium.

“We need our own Silicon Valley. It would be called Niobium Valley!” he gushed, at one event. Jair Bolsonaro’s obsession for niobium—a transition metal largely used to make a highly resistant steel alloy named ferroniobium—is rooted in the belief that it could be used for other applications and “give Brazil...

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