Technology is key to tapping Africa's large, undiscovered mineral deposits

10 July 2018 2 min. read
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Large areas in Africa still hold substantial reserves of gold, uranium and other highly valuable minerals, but remain inaccessible to exploration companies, according to mining consultancy SRK Consulting. While advanced technology has improved mining techniques, workers continue to lack the know-how and skills to optimise the exploration process. 

Rich in minerals and resources, Africa has long been home to mining and commodity-intensive economies, which has spelled success and prosperity at times but economic turmoil at others, particularly in recent years when global commodity prices have taken a plunge.

According to South Africa-based mining consultancy SRK Consulting, a substantial part of the sector’s recovery could be brought about through improvements to the exploration process, both in terms of expanding the geographical scope and in terms of evolving the techniques to meet global trends.

In terms of geographic scope, the firm’s research has revealed some of the richest regions on the continent, which are relatively untapped. In parts of Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, Sierra Leone and South Africa, for instance, Proterozoic sediments have stood the test of time, making the regions rich in iron and manganese reserves.

Technology is key to tapping Africa's large, undiscovered mineral deposits

Other minerals that thrive in more igneous terrain such as platinum group elements, chromite, and vanadiferous titanomagnetite can be found in Zimbabwe and South Africa, in the Bushveld Complex and the Great Dyke, respectively. In Namibia, where the diamond industry is widespread, marine diamond deposits can be found inside Kimberlite pipes that house diamond mineralisation in the cratonic cores.

Other cratonic belts include one stretching across central Africa – generating the copper deposits in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and another that is responsible for the copper, lead and zinc deposits across Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Meanwhile, granite deposits can be found across Nigeria, Rwanda, Namibia, Burundi, and throughout East Africa.

So the potential is enormous, and according to the consulting firm, technology is now advanced enough to harness it. In essence, tools for geochemical and geophysical detection have become quicker, more capable, and have reduced in size to make them easier to use. Advancements in satellite technology has also improved the accuracy of geo-spatial location and multispectral coverage that provide a wealth of information.

The claim reinforces the expectations of Big Four accounting and advisory firm Deloitte, which released analysis earlier this year anticipating the future of the mining sector, predicting the advent of a ‘digital mine’ endowed with the latest hyper-efficient digital techniques for mining processes.