By EPCM Wold contributor Xavier Macia
Parts of Africa have a long tradition of mining. South Africa is a world leader in the production of diamonds, gold and platinum and Ghana follows as Africa’s second largest gold producer. Guinea is now the world’s largest supplier of bauxite, and Zambia the world’s 8th largest copper producer. However, much of Africa blighted by civil unrest and corruption has long made potential investors wary. The end of colonialism in the 50s and 60s brought instability to much of the continent. Mining projects dating from the colonial era suddenly became untenable. The civil war that followed the Belgian withdrawal from the Congo disrupted the huge Katanga copper mines. This same instability continues today, in Mali for instance, where northern rebels recently declared themselves a breakaway state. Understandably, investors remain reluctant. But, even a regime as inept as Zimbabwe’s understands the importance of welcoming foreign investment.
Despite politic unrest in certain regions, the continent as a whole has seen its GDP grow during the last decade. And most forecasts predict continued growth–the IMF predicts a growth of 5.9% in 2012. There are 54 countries in Africa with a total population of more than 1 billion people and a growing middle class (representing approximately 300 million people spread throughout the continent). The jobs and money that follow continued offshore investment, particularly in mining, should contribute to Africa’s overall social and political stability. At least that’s the hope.
The following list of mining projects throughout Africa reflects the variation of circumstances and conditions to be found throughout the immense continent.
Project: Essakane, Burkina Faso
In 2007 Canadian company Orezone became the mine’s operator, and in 2008 was acquired by IMAGOLD. The Essakane mine in the largest in the landlocked West African nation. Capital cost is valued at $346.5 million.
Project: Lumwana Mine, Zambia
Barrick Gold Corporation
This huge mine and manufacturing facility was opened by Equinox Corporation in 2008. In 2011 Canadian company Barrick Gold Corporation acquired Equinox for $7.3 billion.
Project: Kalia Mine, Guinea
This mine is scheduled to begin production in 2014, not running at full capacity until 2018. The project includes construction of supporting rail and port infrastructure. The $4.45 billion project is funded by the China International Fund and is an example of China’s growing interest in African mining.
Project: Kayelekera Mine, Malawi
Paladin Energy Ltd.
This is an example of a project that has faced local opposition based on environmental concerns. Access to the remote mine is being financed by China but the company Paladin Energy is listed on Canadian and Australian stock exchanges.
Project: Sandpiper Marine Phosphates, Namibia
Namibian Marine Phosphate
This project is somewhat unusual in that the “mine” is the ocean bed, offshore of the Namibian coast. Production is scheduled to commence in 2013 and the material will be processed in South Africa.
Project: CBG Bauxite, Guinea
Bauxite (Aluminium ore)
Cie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG)
CBG’s mine has been in operation since 1973 is the world’s largest supplier of aluminum ore, bauxite. Most of the production is shipped overseas for processing.
Project: TauTona, South Africa
South Africa leads in the production of several minerals, including gold. The TauTona mine began producing in 1962 and has recently become the world’s deepest mine at 3.9 kilometres below the land’s surface. The extreme depth of the mine has caused problems that have necessitated some innovative engineering solutions.
Project: Tasiast, Mauritania
Kinross acquired the Tasiast mine in West Africa when it purchased Red Back Mining in September 2010 for $7.1 billion in shares. Despite ongoing delays due to geological complications, Kinross’ CEO Tye Burt maintains that Tasiast is the company’s “top growth priority”. As of year-end 2011, Tasiast contained 7.6 million ounces in proven and probable gold reserves.