A decade of discoveries – A good-news story driven by junior explorers, guided by artisanal workings

Article written for a Mining Journal special supplement on the MINING INDABA Conference, January 2016 p12-16

The Mining Journal has given me permission to reproduce an article which I wrote for inclusion in their special supplement for the INDABA Conference. It talks in detail about the current state-of-play for exploration and discovery in Africa. It covers the full suite of minerals – both precious and base metals as well as industrial and bulk minerals (such as coal and iron ore). It also discusses some of the more noteworthy discoveries made in the last decade.

Key observations are:

  • Africa’s track record in exploration has been surprisingly robust and has resulted in over 250 significant discoveries over the last decade across a wide range of commodities.
  • It is interesting to note that a one-third of these discoveries are derived from evidence generated from the prior workings of local artisanal miners.
  • In the last decade there was a flurry of iron ore exploration on and near known old deposits in western and equatorial Africa. Over 20 new iron ore deposits were subsequently found in the region.
  • It is equally significant to note that two-thirds of all discoveries were made by junior explorers – who are in severe financial difficulties due to the challenges associated with raising fresh capital.
  • In east Africa the current breaking play for gold is in Sudan – where since 2011 five significant deposits have been found containing more than 8Moz of gold.
  • One of the truly outstanding success stories for Africa in the last five years has been the discovery of a belt of giant graphite deposits in northern Mozambique/southern Tanzania. Adding together the published and estimated resources of these discoveries generates a total of 330 million tonnes of flake graphite – which increased the World’s supply of graphite by 470%.

In conclusion Africa still faces the perennial challenge of converting these discoveries into mines. This requires industry and government working together to improve the level of infrastructure, and lower the level of input costs, taxes and political risk.

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