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10 Key Minerals in Africa and Their Global Significance

10 Key Minerals in Africa and Their Global Significance
Home to 30% of the world’s critical minerals, Africa is enhancing exploration, production and infrastructure capabilities to boost mineral output. Demand for critical minerals is expected to double by 2040, which has the potential catalyze investment in the African mining sector.

Cobalt: Key to Lithium Batteries

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) holds an estimated 170,000 tons of cobalt – the largest reserves globally – and accounts for over 70% of global production. Demand for clean energy technologies has spiked demand for cobalt, which is essential for the development of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) and smartphones. Refined cobalt supply is expected to grow by 15.8% to 257,000 tons in 2024.

PGMs: Catalysts for Change

Platinum group metals (PGMs) offer a broad range of applications, serving as a critical component in catalytic converters and hydrogen fuel cells. PGM catalysts, and the green hydrogen produced with them, dramatically reduce emissions in hard-to-abate industries including chemical manufacturing, ammonia production and steel manufacturing. South Africa accounts for roughly 80% of the world’s PGM supplies. Zimbabwe – the world’s third-largest producer of platinum – holds an estimated 71,000 tons of PGMs.

Rare Earth Elements Power Modern Technology

South Africa is also home to some of the highest-grade rare earth element (REE) deposits in the world, with the Phalaborwa and Steenkampskraal mines holding an estimated 30.4 million tons and 605,000 tons, respectively. Meanwhile, the Gakara Rare Earth Project in Burundi is one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits with approximately 1.2 million tons of reserves. REEs are key ingredients for magnets, batteries and catalytic converters and are used in the production of wind turbines. Demand for REEs is expected to spike by 2040, with magnet manufacturing poised to account for roughly 36% of demand by 2030.

Graphite: Core of Energy Storage

Mozambique accounts for nearly 10% of global graphite production. Its Montepuez mine boasts reserves of 119.6 million tons, with the capacity to produce 100,000 tons per year. Madagascar’s Molo mine holds indicated mineral resources measuring 76.7 million tons, with a phase two expansion plan targeting a production of 150,000 tons per year. Graphite is used as an anode material in lithium-ion batteries and global demand is expected to increase by 500% by 2050.

Lithium: Fueling the Electric Revolution

Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves and mines in Africa. A critical energy transition mineral for its use in energy storage and electric vehicle batteries, lithium demand is expected to surpass 2.4 million tons by 2030. Meanwhile, developments in Namibia could position the country as a moderate- to large-scale producer. Notable projects include the Kelikon and Rubicon prospects, which boast estimated resources of 7.72 million tons and 11.3 million tons, respectively.

Copper: Electricity’s Backbone

Copper mining in the DRC – the world’s fourth largest producer – mainly takes place in the Copper Belt of the southern Katanga Province where production reached an estimated 2.5 million tons in 2023. In Zambia, copper production is projected to rise to around 1 million tons per year by 2026, with 17 new mines forecast to open within the next two years. Copper serves as a key material in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, power cables and energy storage systems.

Nickel: Enhancing EV Performance

Five of the largest nickel mines in South Africa include the Mogalakwena Mine, the Impala Mine, the Rustenburg Complex, the Amandelbult Mine and the Two Rivers Mine, collectively producing approximately 22,000 tons in 2023. Demand for nickel, which enhances the performance of EVs and energy storage systems, is expected to exceed 109,000 tons this year and is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% over the next several years.

Bauxite: The Source of Aluminum

Guinea-Conakry holds the world’s largest bauxite reserves, while the nearby bauxite-bearing belt in Sierra Leone also boasts a significant resource base of roughly 31 million tons. Bauxite serves as the main ingredient of aluminum – a key metal for modern infrastructure and energy transition technologies – with the global bauxite market expected to reach $19.7 billion by 2030.

Chromium: The Essential Alloy

South Africa is home to roughly 70% of global chromium reserves and is its largest global exporter. Neighboring Zimbabwe boasts the second-largest deposits of high-grade chromium globally, with a resource base of approximately 10 billion tons. Chromium is used in a variety of applications, including stainless steel development and the production of several alloys. The chromium market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% through 2030.

Manganese: Strengthening Steel

South African manganese is found in the Kalahari Basin, which holds 80% of global reserves. Manganese is a powerful oxidizing agent used in strengthening steel and a crucial element in the thermal stabilization of lithium-ion batteries. Gabon has the second-largest deposits of manganese, found primarily in the Moanda mines.