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Exploring the Rich Africa Minerals

The significant growth in mining and exploration sector especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been spurred due to depletion mineral deposits in Europe and the US. Also, technological advancements has led to the enhanced feasibilityof mining in remote and less developed nations.

Photograph: Panos / Jacob Silberberg

The young continent has abundant natural resources, including the world’s largest reserves of platinum, gold, diamonds, chromite, manganese, phosphates and vanadium, and already employs millions of workers in more than 1,800 mining projects, as well as artisanal works. In the past however, it has struggled to fully benefit from this wealth.

Making the best deal for mineral deposit 

Mineral-rich countries in Africa enjoyed a mining boom between 2002 and 2007 as metal and oil prices nearly tripled. Companies competed furiously for new mines to meet growing world demand.

As a result, a number of African nations found themselves in a much stronger bargaining position with foreign investors, who previously were able to demand and get huge breaks before they would invest.

Exploring the many

Presently mining operations in Africa have generated big profits for foreign companies, with little local benefit. Now governments are trying to harness more mining revenues for development purposes.

But since then, amidst a global economic downturn, world metals and oil prices have fallen substantially, raising concerns that investors will once again shy away, and to some extent undercutting Africa’s bargaining power. Zambia, for example, had hoped to impose windfall profit taxes on copper mining to finance an infrastructure fund, but shelved those plans after copper prices plunged from $9,000 to $3,000 a tonne.

Though richly endowed with mineral and oil deposits, Africa has generally drawn little benefit from that wealth. Mining and oil profits have long gone abroad or been squandered, leaving many people in poverty.

The emergence of more democratic and accountable governments, along with agitation by communities and civil society groups, has contributed to efforts to better harness mining for development. Minning countries in Africa are blanketed with vast quantities of untapped mineral wealth. The continent has been ranked by the US Geological Society as having immense reserves of all manner of minerals including diamonds, platinum, bauxite, manganese, gold and cobalt among others.

Precious metals are scattered throughout Africa, from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, and South Africa in the South. Diamonds are found throughout the continent and copper is ubiquitous in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia.

The mineral industry of Africa is the largest mineral industries in the world. Africa is the second largest continent, with 11.73 million miles of land, which implies large quantities of resources. With a population of 1.216 billion living there.

The Shadow exploration

For many African countries, mineral exploration and production constitute significant parts of their economies and remain keys to economic growth. Africa is richly endowed with mineral reserves and ranks first or second in quantity of world reserves of bauxite, cobalt, industrial diamond, phosphate rock, platinum-group metals (PGM), vermiculite.

The recent exploration and mining initiatives by China, individual African countries, and multinational conglomerates are resulting in a boom in mining operations in the continent.

The 2012 share of world production from African soil was bauxite 7%; aluminium 5%; chromite 38%; cobalt 60%; copper 9%; gold 20%; iron ore 2%; steel 1%; lead (Pb) 2%; manganese 38%; zinc 1%; cement 4%; natural diamond 56%; graphite 2%; phosphate rock 21%; coal 4%; mineral fuels (including coal) & petroleum 47%; uranium 18% platinum 69.4%.

The Central African Mining and Exploration Company (CAMEC), one of Africa’s primary mining enterprises, is criticized for its unregulated environmental impact and minimal social stewardship.

In the spring of 2009, retired British cricket player Phil Edmonds’ assets were seized by the United Kingdom’s government due to CAMEC’s illicit association with former self-appointed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. CAMEC recently sold 95.4% of its shares to the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation. It is under restructuring and is no longer trading under the CAMEC brand.

African mineral reserves rank first or second for bauxite, cobalt, diamonds, phosphate rocks, platinum-group metals (PGM), vermiculite and zirconium. Many other minerals are present in quantity.

 

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