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10 Most Important Precious Minerals and Metals Found in Africa

Africa is rich in a variety of minerals, metals, and oil resources. The continent holds 30 percent of the mineral resources on earth and houses 5 of the top 30 oil-producing countries globally.

The continent has abundant mineral and metal reserves and also ranks among the primary producers of these resources.

The bountiful natural resources in Africa made the region the fastest-growing foreign investment in the world.

North Africa holds natural gas deposits, while Sub-Sahara Africa has mineral resources like gold, copper, coltan, nuclear/uranium ore, and more.

Generally speaking, there is an uneven distribution of precious minerals and metals in Africa.

Still, most of the deposits can occur across Western Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa, and some of these natural resources are still untapped.

Let’s explore the ten most important precious minerals and metals found in Africa arranged in descending order based on their place in global production while also tracing their numerous deposits and uses.

1. Gold

Gold is the most important and most profitable precious mineral in Africa. In 2020, gold mine production in Africa totaled 663 metric tons out of the 3,200 metric ton global production, according to Statista.

Why is gold the most important precious mineral in Africa?

Considering the progress in the gold mining industry in Africa, its uses, and the abundance of deposits in Africa, you will discover why gold is an essential mineral in the continent. Read further to find out why gold is significant in Africa.

Uses of gold

Gold is used in medicine to treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. In electronics, people use gold to connect wires and also serve as conductors. Most importantly, people use gold in making jewelry.

Overview of the gold mining industry in Africa

Africa is the world’s third central gold-producing continent. Africa presently has 21 out of its 54 African countries engaged in gold mining activities.

Ghana is Africa’s leading gold-producing country, producing 150 metric tons, followed by South Africa in 2020 (Statista).

Initially, South Africa was the leading gold-producing country in Africa. Africa’s first gold mine was in South Africa in 1886.

Where can you find Gold in Africa?

In Africa, you can find gold across Ghana, Tanzania, Cote’de Ivoire, Mali, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Guinea, Benin, among others.

Some of the top gold mines in Africa include the Asanko mine, Akyem and Ahafo mines, Tarkwa gold mine, Obuasi and Iduapriem mines, and Chirano mine, all in Ghana.

In South Africa, you can spot Kromdraai, South Deep, Driefontein, and Mponeng gold mines.

Other significant gold mines in Africa include the Hassai gold mine in Sudan, Sadiola and Morila gold mines in Mali, and other mines.

Outstanding features and facts about gold

Gold occurs naturally as a precious metal, and among its outstanding features are smudge resistance, high luster, and yellow color. To measure a gold that is 100 percent, it needs to have 24 karats.

2. Diamonds

The second most crucial precious mineral in Africa is diamond. Africa used to hold the highest diamond reserve in the world before discovering the diamond mine in Russia (Verkhne-Munskoye diamond field).

Highlight on the importance of diamonds in Africa

As of 2020, according to Statista, an African country Botswana holds the second-largest diamond reserve in the world, accounting for 310 million carats against the 650 million carats by Russia.

The figure here makes Africa the second country with the highest diamond reserve globally, with Botswana having the biggest diamond mines worldwide.

A look at diamond deposits and mining in Africa

You can spot diamond deposits across South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, Central African Republic, Namibia, Botswana, and Angola.

Generally, top diamond mining countries and mines in Africa include Jwaneng and Orapa diamond mines in Botswana, kimberlite mines covering Botswana, South Africa, DRC, Angola, Lesotho, Ghana, and Tanzania.

What quantity of diamond does Africa produce?

Africa is among the largest producers and exporters of diamonds in the world. The continent produces about 1.9 billion carats of diamonds globally, which is about 50% of the world’s production.

Uses of diamond

Aside from diamonds in jewelry, several industries such as medical, construction, automotive, and others uses diamond in several ways.

3. Copper

Copper is among the important metals in Africa, with the continent making up about 11% of the worldwide copper market.

In 2020, Africa’s amount of copper production was 2.38 million metric tons (including the ones used locally and exported).

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the top copper-producing country in Africa, accounting for 1.4 million metric tons, followed by the 861,100 metric tons production by Zambia.

Two Africa countries Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia, are the 4th and 7th top copper-producing countries, respectively, after Chile, Peru, and China in 2020.

Features of copper

Copper is a base metal with a reddish-gold color and one of the easiest metals to work on in history.

Copper deposits in Africa

Countries that contribute significantly to copper production in Africa include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, and Uganda.

Uses of copper in Africa

Copper is easy to work on, which is why industries can put it to many uses. Among the many uses of copper include making coins and other metallic substances.

Industries use copper in exchanging heat, plumbing and roofing sheet construction, detecting sugar, making electrical equipment.

4. Cobalt

Cobalt is among the essential metals in Africa. In fact, as of 2020, Africa is the top cobalt producing country globally, with the Democratic Republic of Congo alone producing 100,000 tonnes which are 70% of the world’s cobalt.

Why is cobalt an important metal in Africa?

Cobalt is a silvery blue metal of great importance in Africa, mined as a byproduct of either nickel or copper. DR Congo uses artisanal mining to extract just the metal. 

Presently, Africa holds half of the cobalt reserves in the world, with many mining companies operating mainly at the Ruashi, Etoile, Kamoto, and Mutanda mines in the DRC.

The top cobalt consumer in Africa is China, as they use metal in producing many of their products, especially EV batteries.

Uses of cobalt in Africa

Cobalt is applicable in the ceramics industry for giving deep blue coloring to ceramics, inks, varnishes, and paints. Industries and the military use cobalt to produce energy gamma rays and use it as a radioactive tracer to set up resistant magnetic alloys.

In a more general term, industries use cobalt in producing rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles, among other electronics.

African countries that mine cobalt 

Cobalt mining in Africa occurs across The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, and the Central African Republic.

5. Uranium

Africa accounts for about 18% of the annual uranium production in the world. Also, Africa has the second-largest uranium deposit, which is the Imouraren mine is in Niger. 

The Imouraren mine has the most significant uranium deposit in Africa, with an estimate of 179,000 tonnes.

Uranium deposit in Africa

Uranium is a metal with a silvery-white color. Africa, as we already have an abundance of mineral resources. Some of the Uranium deposits in Africa are yet untapped.

However, the uranium mining countries in Africa include Niger, Algeria, Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, Malawi, and South Africa.

Uses of Uranium

Uranium has industrial, military, and medical uses. Among these uses is that it serves as a dye for ceramics, colorant for photography, with a radioactive property that serves as an energy source.

6. Platinum

Africa produces an estimate of 92% platinum globally, making the metal one of the most important precious metals in Africa.

Platinum deposits and production in Africa

In Africa, South Africa is the largest producer of platinum and the largest globally, producing 127 metric tons in 2020 (Statista).

With 14 metric tons, Zimbabwe ranks as the 2nd largest platinum producing country in Africa, after South Africa and the 3rd largest worldwide.

General uses of uranium.

There are many uses of uranium in the world: jewelry, catalytic converters, dentistry equipment, laboratory equipment, platinum resistance thermometers, electrical contacts, and electrodes.

7. Iron ore

Another important mineral in Africa is iron ore, and it is a metallic iron that is yet not mined by many African countries. Though its mining is consistent among other continents, South Africa is the 7th largest iron producer globally and the largest in Africa.

Where can you find iron ore in Africa?

Iron ore mining occurs in Africa, most popular among South Africa, Mauritania, and Algeria.

Notwithstanding, other African countries with iron ore deposits include Morocco, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, Uganda, Congo (Brazzaville), Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic.

Uses of iron ore

In general, iron ore is a major element for making steel. On the other hand, the automotive industry uses steel in producing car bodies, armored vehicles, screws, protective gears, nails, and bolts, among other products.

8. Palladium 

Palladium is the eighth most important precious metal in Africa. Africa is the second-largest global palladium producer globally, with South Africa producing about 96% of the overall figure of 66.33 metric tons out of 79 metric tons in 2020, according to Statista.

Zimbabwe also has significant input in the world palladium production, ranking 5th in the world palladium production. Often, palladium comes as a byproduct of other metals like nickel and platinum.

Uses of palladium

The most popular usage of palladium is in automotive as a converter of catalysts. In medicine, dentists use palladium to fill up crowns. Others use it in manufacturing jewelry, an instrument for surgical operations, blood sugar test strips, and electrical contacts, among other uses.

9. Bauxite

Bauxite is a metallic mineral that is a primary mineral for the production of aluminum. In Africa, Guinea and Ghana have the highest deposit of bauxite on their topsoil.

Bauxite production in Africa

The production of bauxite in Africa in 2020, according to Statista, is 90.6 million metric tons, out of which Guinea alone produced 87.77 million metric tons.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) ranks Guinea as the 5th of the top bauxite producing countries globally. Australia, China, Brazil, and India come first, second, third, and fourth, respectively.

Apart from Guinea and Ghana, other African bauxite mining countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Egypt, and Cameroon.

How does Bauxite look like?

Bauxite comes in either brown, yellow, pink, beige, reddish-brown, white, or grey colors and is the primary metal aluminum source.

Uses of bauxite

In metallurgy, engineers use bauxite to produce aluminum, which is also applicable in making appliances, electronics, vehicles, and construction.

Some industries combine bauxite with other minerals to produce things like dental cement, machinery, airplanes, building, and construction, making papers, plastics, refining petroleum, and lots more.

10. Nickel

Nickel is another essential metal in Africa, with their mining taking place across South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. It is a shiny silvery metal that exists alongside laterite deposits.

Nickel deposits in Africa

In 2020 according to Statista, South Africa ranked the highest nickel producing country with 34,000 metric tons out of the 111,300 metric tons in Africa. However, nickel mining in South Africa and that of Zimbabwe are part of platinum byproducts.

Aside from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, you can find nickel deposits in African countries like Madagascar and Burundi.

Uses of nickel

The most common application of nickel is in the production of coins. Other nickel uses include making engines of rockets, wires, alloys for pipes, nails, batteries, medical equipment, jewelry, and lots more.

What precious materials come from Africa?

Among the many precious materials from Africa include diamonds, bauxite, gold, copper, uranium, iron ore, and cobalt.

What is the most abundant mineral in Africa?

Even though Africa has many minerals and metals, they still have others more abundant than the others. The most abundant mineral in Africa is diamond and gold.

Bottom Line

Africa has one of the most important mining industries in the world, and its mineral deposit primarily drives economic growth in the continent.

Aside from using these resources in the country, industries that apply these resources like the energy, manufacturing, infrastructural development, and medical industry export these natural resources to other countries of the world.

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