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Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad

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Gwede Mantashe, South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, called on the private sector and investors to assist governments in finding solutions for their challenges. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad

After the first day at Investing in African Mining Indaba, held in Cape Town, South Africa, it is clear that the mining industry in Africa is at a crossroad.

By Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

The irrevocable changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical tension, the energy transition and climate change, will demand that mining companies start digging deeper not only to be profitable, but to do introspection, to ask the hard questions and to probe how they can contribute towards the development of host countries and communities, mitigate climate change and contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity, natural processes and enhance the environment in which they operate.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) discussions dominated the first day of discussions, and the development of local communities, conservation of biodiversity, dealing with climate change and extreme weather, and establishing reliable and secure supply chains are now seen as the main areas of focus for mining companies to ensure a sustainable future.

The geopolitical repositioning and the global energy crisis, has put Africa at the centre of the world’s attention as the USA/UK/EU and China/ Russia jostle to find firm footing on the continent, where many countries are still grappling with high food prices, instability and ineffective regulations. However, that Africa stands at the dawn of a new era, for good or bad, can no longer be denied.

Time to speak with one voice (Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad)

According to Frans Baleni, Chair of the Advisory Board Investing in African Mining Indaba, these difficult times present many opportunities for Africa. “African governments need to form meaningful partnerships, speak with one voice and address these challenges as a unified continent,” he said in the opening address at Indaba. “Our main challenges are to foster stability, to deal with supply chain disruptions, mitigate the impact of geopolitical tensions and to ensure security across the continent,” he said.

Gwede Mantashe, South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, called on the private sector and investors to assist governments in finding solutions for the myriad of challenges. “Together, and as equal partners, we need to come up with innovative solutions to transform infrastructure. Roads and railways must be efficient, and we need to upgrade and develop port infrastructure and start thinking about the beneficiation of Africa’s minerals,” said Mantashe.

Critical minerals in abundance (Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad)

According to Jose W Fernandez, the American Under Secretary of States for Economic Development, most of the minerals that the USA recently declared as critical, are found in abundance in Africa.

Furthermore, the energy transition will result in increased demand for battery minerals and Africa should be prepared for an imminent boom in this sector. “Demand for critical minerals will increase six-fold in the next few years. Demand for graphite is expected to increase 25 times and demand for lithium 42 times,” said Fernandez.

Sinead Kaufman, CEO of Rio Tinto, emphasised the importance of biodiversity and said that mining companies have a responsibility to protect ecosystems for the long-term benefit of communities and the environment. “We need to foster partnerships and find nature-based solutions for our current challenges,” Kaufman said.

Mark Bristow, CEO of mining giant Barrick Gold, said that the changes brought about by Covid-19, geopolitical instability and the resultant energy crisis have changed the mining industry forever. “Sustainability is fundamental. Climate change, poverty and biodiversity risks are all linked. Mining companies need to forge partnerships with communities, they need to start planning for mine closure as soon as they start planning for mining, and they need to not only protect the environment in which they operate, but actually improve its functioning,” said Bristow.

Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad

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Africa centre of attention as mining stands at a crossroad

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management