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West Africa Rising: Unlocking the Mineral Wealth Potential

by Adenike Adeodun

West Africa, known for its rich mineral deposits, including bauxite, manganese, copper, cobalt, iron ore, and gold, is fast becoming a dominant force in the energy arena. Yet, to truly harness its economic potential, the region needs enhanced regulatory reforms, investment in exploration, and increased processing and refining capabilities.

Spotlight on Mineral-rich Nations

Several countries in West Africa are making significant progress in tapping into their mineral assets. Guinea, holding the world’s largest bauxite reserves, contributed to over half of the global aluminum ore exports in 2020. Meanwhile, Ghana, emerging as the world’s second-largest bauxite producer in 2022, projects 3% growth until 2026. It also marked a $370 million manganese ore export in 2021, positioning itself as the fifth major global exporter.

Gabon, boasting the world’s second-largest manganese deposits, takes its place as the third-top producer globally. Its Moanda town in Haut-Ogooué Province holds some of the world’s most potent manganese deposits.

In the copper arena, Mauritania produced around 18,800 tons in 2021, with the Guelb Moghrein copper-gold mine, managed by Mauritanian Copper Mines—a First Quantum Minerals subsidiary—being instrumental in this surge since its inception in October 2006.

Meanwhile, Mako Gold’s revelation this August about a significant manganese deposit in its Korhogo mining project bolsters Ivory Coast’s reputation as a leading manganese producer, with outputs reaching 36,000 metric tons in 2022.

Strategizing for a Robust Mineral Future

With rising investments in West Africa’s mineral wealth, regional policymakers face the challenge of balancing geopolitical intricacies with domestic industrial growth. Energy Capital & Power reported that countries like Ghana are taking bold steps, having introduced the Green Minerals Policy and unveiling a $500 million lithium refining establishment.

In September 2021, Ghana endorsed local mining giant, Rocksure International to helm the development of a $200 million bauxite mine and a $1 billion refinery, aiming to produce five million tons of bauxite ore annually. Likewise, the Gabonese Government’s policies are veering towards minimizing raw material exports to promote public-private collaboration.

While these moves reflect positive momentum, unlocking the full potential of the region’s mineral resources demands substantial investment. The forthcoming MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power 2023 conference, slated for November 21–22, emerges as a critical juncture for investors and policymakers to engage, deliberating on energy and mineral opportunities in the MSGBC region.

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