Critical Minerals Africa Summit set for November

Staff Writer

The Critical Minerals Africa summit, scheduled for November 6-7, 2024 in Cape Town, will place a special emphasis on balancing the continent’s vast mineral resources with the need for sustainable development.

The summit will explore how to responsibly increase exploration and extraction while maximising value addition through local refining and manufacturing.

The Critical Minerals Africa summit will explore the latest processing and infrastructure developments across the continent, with a view to driving critical minerals consumption.

Global demand for critical minerals essential for clean energy technologies is expected to grow more than three-fold by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

For Africa – a continent rich in a variety of minerals – this highlights a strategic opportunity to bolster economic growth through mineral development.

Africa holds approximately two-thirds of global cobalt reserves, around 30% of lithium and significant shares of other critical minerals, including manganese, copper and iron ore.

Leading mineral markets on the continent include the Democratic Republic of Congo, which contributes over 70% of global cobalt production, Gabon, ranking second in global manganese production, and Zambia, recognised as the largest exporter of unrefined copper globally.

Additionally, Zimbabwe ranks as the world’s third-largest exporter of chromium ore and holds the largest lithium reserves in Africa.

Despite this substantial resource base, challenges persist in value addition and processing. Currently, China dominates the global mineral processing market, particularly in the production of lithium and cobalt.

The country imported approximately $10 billion worth of minerals in 2019 from sub-Saharan Africa alone, underscoring the region’s reliance on foreign processing capabilities.

While the DRC dominates cobalt mining globally, 60% of cobalt processing occurs in China, while in 2022, Zambia exported $6.6 billion in raw copper – most of which was sent to China.

Recent developments, however, aim to reverse this trend, with an influx of infrastructure investments and the introduction of policies that support domestic processing capabilities.

Last October, South African mining and minerals advisory firm Q Global Commodities partnered with investment firm F9 Capital Management to invest $1 billion in critical mineral production across southern and eastern Africa.

The venture, targeting lithium, copper and nickel production, aims to develop new processing plants and logistics infrastructure.

From a policy standpoint, several African countries are implementing reforms aimed at encouraging local mineral processing and value addition.

In 2023, Namibia and Zimbabwe banned the export of unprocessed lithium and other critical minerals, leveraging rising global demand for transition metals and minerals.

Both countries aim to regulate these exports, with Namibia only allowing small quantities of the specified minerals with the approval of its Ministry of Mines and Energy, and Zimbabwe emphasising local battery-grade lithium production from concentrates.

Against this backdrop, the Critical Minerals Africa summit will explore strategies for enhancing value addition within the continent’s critical minerals sector.

Additionally, the session will address the crucial role of supporting infrastructure in facilitating extraction, processing and distribution, as well as the impact of policy reforms in incentivising new refining capabilities.

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