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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook mineral industries of Africa 1990
Year 1990, Volume 3 (1990)

Morgan, George A.
The mineral industry of Africa,   pp. 1-5 PDF (599.8 KB)

Page 1

By George A. Morgan and Staff, Branch of Africa and Middle East 
The 53 countries that constituted Africa in 1990 accounted for a significant
portion of total world output of a number of mineral commodities. Among the
most significant to be produced in Africa were andalusite, antimony, asbestos,
bauxite, chromite, coal, cobaIt, copper, diamond, fluorspar, gold, lithium
minerals, manganese, phosphate, platinumgroup metals, the titanium minerals—ilmenite
and rutile, vanadium, vermiculite, uranium, and zircon. Several of these,
chromite, cobalt, diamond, and manganese, were not produced in the United
Despite the underdevelopment of much ofAfrica, mineral raw materials play
a very important part in the national economies of many of its countries.
In many cases, the production of minerals is the dominant economic activity
in the country, often having the largest and most sophisticated work force.
In several countries, one or two mineral commodities are dominant in a weakly
diversified economy. Among these are petroleum and diamonds in Angola, petroleum
in the Congo, gold in Ghana, bauxite in Guinea, uranium in Niger, phosphate
in Senegal and Togo, and copper and cobalt in Zaire and Zambia. 
In terms ofpercentage ofexport earnings, minerals clearly were the lifeblood
of a number of countries throughout the continent. In 12 countries, minerals
accounted for more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. These centers of
mineral exports developed years ago, and with the exception ofpetroleum,
nearly all the hard-rockmines opened during the colonial period. Some, such
as gold in Ghana, have recently been reactivated. In Botswana, Gabon, Namibia,
the Republic of South Africa, and Zimbabwe, relatively successful diversification
has grown from the central core of mineral development and its auendant infrastructure.
In recent years, African countries have expanded or improved their mining,
investment, and tax laws to further such activity. Privatization of Government-held
mining enterprises is commonplace. With the exception of a marble quarry
in Togo, 
these privatization moves appear to have been successful. The move toward
mineral development is happening despite the time lag for development and
initial capital requirements for opening mines. The advantages of developing
an economic mineral resource base in those countries with such identified
wealth continue to be employment, education and training, improved health
facilities, export earnings, and infrastructure development. 
The most significant mineral economies in Africa in terms of diversity, volume,
and value of output of nonfuel minerals, in order of importance, were the
Republic of South Africa, Zaire, Zambia, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Also
important in terms of value of mineral production from several high-valued
minerals or those produced in large volume, such as bauxite, diamond, gold,
manganese, phosphate rock, and uranium, were Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea,
Niger, and Togo. 
In terms of mineral fuels, Nigeria and Libya were the largest producers of
crude petroleum, followed by Egypt and Algeria. However, the western coast
of Africa remained an exploration target for additional oil and gas resources.
West coast countries currently producing crude petroleum were Angola, Benin,
Cameroon, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Morocco, Senegal, and Zaire.
Exploration for natural gas continued in Namibia and the Republic of South
Africa. Coal was produced by only a few countries, although reserves were
quite large in southern Africa. The main producers, in order of importance,
were the Republic of South Africa, which was also the world's third largest
exporter of coal, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. 
The Republic of South Africa had the highestvalue ofnonfuelmineral production
in Africa and ranked among the top five world producers in value of nonfuel
mmerals. It was among the top world producers of andalusite, chromite, diamond,
fluorspar, gold, manganese, platinum-group metals, pyrophyllite, titanium,
uranium, vanadium, vermiculite, and zircon. 
U.S. imports in 1990 from African nations were mainly raw materials. In the
ofmineral commodities, 10 countries were considered to be major import sources.
Among these were: Gabon for manganese; Guinea for bauxite; Madagascar for
graphite; Morocco for barite; Namibia for quartz crystal; the Republic of
South Africa for andalusite, antimony, asbestos, chromium, diamond, fluorspar,
gem stones, manganese, platinum-group metals, pyrophyllite, vanadium, and
vermiculite; Zaire for cobalt, copper, and diamond; Zambia for cobalt; and
Zimbabwe for chromium and lithium. U.S. exports to Africa were mainly food,
equipment and machinery, computers, and aircraft. 
 The total land area of Africa was about 3.2 times that of the United States.
Exclusive ofthe mineral commodities aforementioned for which there was no
U.S. production or which were unique to Africa in terms ofdominating world
markets, U.S. production of most mineral commodities exceeded that for all
of Africa. Two major exceptions were gold and uranium, for which Africa remains
a major world supplier. Although Africa has been a source of minerals for
centuries, large areas are under thick vegetative or sand and unconsolidated
alluvium cover, which impede exploration. 
~ Other large areas are subject to internal 
~ strife or legislation prohibitive to risk in- 
vestment, which have set back the pace of mineral industry development and
even exploration. 
The population of Africa is about 677 million compared with 253 million for
the United States. However, Africa's labor force is only about 190 million,
or about 50% larger than 124 million for the United States, and consists
for the most part of unskilled or semiskilled labor. Lack of skilled labor
remains a significant factor in the slow pace of mineral project development
throughout much of Africa. The cornbined gross domestic product (GDP) of
the countries of Africa is estimated at about $413 billion and is vastly
outweighed by the $5,465 billion gross national product of the United States.
African countries have some of the lowest per capita GDP in the world and
vary from about $107 for Mozambique to $4,286 for the island na 

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