Africa has at least a fifth of the world’s reserves of critical minerals
Dozens of critical minerals are found on the African continent. Critical minerals are defined as metallic or non-metallic elements that are essential for modern technologies, economies or national security and have supply chains at risk of disruption.
Many are valuable “transition metals” – a group of elements including cobalt, nickel, manganese and chromium, which will play a key role in the shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources.
Decarbonisation is driving demand for a range of minerals including these, graphite, lithium and “rare earth” elements such as neodymium, samarium and yttrium. They will underpin technologies crucial to the energy transition, including wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.
From north to south, Africa’s reserves of such metals are prodigious. Morocco has 70% of the world’s phosphate reserves; DRC has 50% of the world’s cobalt; Gabon has up to 15% of the world’s manganese; South Africa has 91% of the world’s platinum, 46% of its yttrium, 22% of its manganese, 35% of its chromium and 16% of its vanadium.
The wider southern African region is home to substantial untapped lithium resources, used primarily in the construction of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale storage.
Overall, the continent has at least a fifth of the world’s reserves in a dozen minerals that are critical for the energy transition, according to the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) Triple Win report – “which makes Africa essential in the just energy transition,” says David Manley, NRGI lead economic analyst for the energy transition. Furthermore, the continent is relatively unexplored and has the lowest concentration of known mineral wealth in the world, the organisation says.
The global scramble for such minerals is only beginning. The World Bank has studied the clean energy production needed to keep global heating below 2°C by mid-century. It concludes that production of graphite, lithium, and cobalt will need to be ramped up to 3.1bn tons by 2050, up more than 450% from 2019 levels, to meet demand from energy and energy storage technologies.
Source: African Business