As the world transitions to cleaner forms of energy, Africa will play a crucial role in the supply of critical minerals required for the development of renewable energy technologies. Robert Friedland, Executive Co-Chairperson of mining firm Ivanhoe Mines, considers these resources to be integral to the future global economy, with “the fate of humanity [resting] on the African continent.” With demand for critical minerals expected to reach annual revenues of $400 billion by 2050, Africa is poised to lead the global mining industry while stimulating socioeconomic growth and development.
Speaking during the London Indaba conference – taking place this week under the theme, ‘Investing in Resources and Mining in Africa’ – Friedland emphasized that “Africa is blessed with the greatest mineral endowment on the planet, and it hasn’t even begun to be scratched…mining as an enterprise has to be completely, utterly, and totally reinvented.”
He added that, “When you have a really sober understanding of where this sits, there’s no chance, as a species, for us to get where we need to go without the young people on the African continent – and it’s amazing that this is not understood.”
Boasting vast quantities of critical minerals including cobalt, copper, bauxite, chromium, high-purity iron ore, manganese, graphite, platinum group metals, lithium, and rare earth metals, the global energy transition will not be possible without tapping into Africa’s immense endowment of natural resources.
For its part, the continent accounts for more than 85% of most solar photovoltaic components and is home to approximately one-third of global bauxite reserves. Africa also produced 80% of global chromium in 2020 – a requisite material for the development of concentrated solar power – with countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia holding the majority of the world’s cobalt reserves; Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania’s combined graphite reserves account for over one-fifth of the global resource base; while over 60% of manganese production occurs in Africa.
As such, investing in and developing African critical minerals will be the key to unlocking a sustainable future for all.