AFRICA has long been a focal point for the global mining industry because of its wealth of mineral resources.

From Zimbabwe’s precious minerals to the gold mines of South Africa, the diamond fields of Botswana and the vast copper deposits of Zambia, the continent’s mineral wealth is immense. For decades, Africa’s vast mineral resources have been a battlefield for plunder, conflict, exploitation and many other forms of vice.

However, the narrative around mining in Africa is evolving. Today, the focus is not just on extraction, but on sustainable development, local beneficiation and creating long-term economic value.

Africa’s mineral wealth

The continent is home to an array of minerals, including gold, diamonds, platinum, copper, cobalt and rare earth elements. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone holds over 50 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves, a critical component in the production of batteries for electric vehicles. South Africa is the world’s leading producer of platinum and a major producer of gold and diamonds. These resources have the potential to drive significant economic growth and development across the continent.

Changing landscape of mining investment

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the mining investment landscape in Africa.

Traditional mining giants like Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Glencore Plc continue to play a significant role, but there is a growing presence of junior mining companies and local enterprises. This diversification is fostering a more dynamic and competitive environment, encouraging innovation and collaboration.

Moreover, there is an increasing focus on responsible and sustainable mining practices. Investors and companies are becoming more attuned to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. This shift is driven by both regulatory requirements and a growing awareness of the importance of sustainability in securing a social license to operate.

Initiatives like the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), adopted by the African Union, emphasise the need for integrating mining into the continent’s broader socio-economic development agenda.

Local beneficiation and value addition

One of the key challenges and opportunities for the African mining sector is local beneficiation and value addition.

Too often, Africa’s minerals are exported in raw form, with little value added locally. This limits the economic benefits that can be derived from the continent’s mineral wealth.

However, there are promising signs of change. Countries like Botswana have successfully implemented policies to promote local beneficiation. Botswana’s diamond cutting and polishing industry, for instance, has created jobs and added significant value to the country’s diamond exports. Similarly, South Africa’s mining charter encourages mining companies to invest in local processing and manufacturing.

Infrastructure and technological advancements

Infrastructure development is critical to unlocking the full potential of Africa’s mining sector.

Reliable transportation networks, energy supply, and water resources are essential for efficient mining operations. Governments and private sector players are increasingly investing in infrastructure projects to support the mining industry. Technological advancements are also playing a pivotal role in transforming the mining sector.

Automation, digitalisation, and the use of advanced data analytics are improving operational efficiency, safety, and environmental management.

The case of Zimbabwe

With vast deposits of gold, platinum, diamonds and lithium, Zimbabwe’s mining sector is poised to drive significant economic growth and development. The country boasts the second-largest platinum reserves in the world after South Africa, as well as significant deposits of gold, diamonds, coal and lithium.

The Great Dyke, a geological feature running through the heart of Zimbabwe, is particularly rich in platinum and chrome.

Gold mining has traditionally been the cornerstone of the country’s mining industry. Recent data from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe indicates that gold production has been on the rise, with small-scale miners contributing significantly to the output. The discovery of new gold deposits and the expansion of existing mines promise to further bolster this vital sector.

Policy reforms and investment climate

In recent years, the Government has taken proactive steps to create a more favourable investment climate for the mining sector.

The introduction of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, aimed at modernising the legal framework governing mining activities, is a significant step towards attracting foreign investment. Additionally, Government’s commitment to implementing investor-friendly policies, such as tax incentives and streamlined regulatory processes, has begun to bear fruit.

The Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) has been instrumental in facilitating investment and promoting Zimbabwe as a mining destination.

Technology and innovation

Zimbabwe is exploring the potential of value addition and beneficiation.

By processing minerals such as lithium locally, the country can capture more value from its resources and create jobs. The establishment of smelting and refining facilities for platinum and chrome is a step in this direction, promising to transform raw materials into high-value products.

Sustainable practices

Sustainable mining practices and community engagement are critical to the long-term success of Zimbabwe’s mining sector.

Mining companies are increasingly recognising the importance of building strong relationships with local communities and ensuring that mining activities contribute to social and economic development.

Environmental, social and governance initiatives, such as building schools, healthcare facilities and infrastructure, are becoming more prevalent. Additionally, mining companies are investing in skills development and training programmes to empower local communities and create sustainable livelihoods beyond the life of the mine.

With the right policies, investments and partnerships, Zimbabwe’s mining sector has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Zimbabweans.

As the country navigates its mining renaissance, it stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity in the global mining landscape.