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)
1THE MINERAL INDUSTRY OF AFRICA By George A. Morgan and Staff, Branch of Africa and Middle East INTRODUCTION1 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 States. 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 case 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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