World Bank to map Africa’s natural resources

africa3The World Bank plans to launch in July a $1 billion plan to map Africa‘s natural resources with the aim of delineating more clearly the continent’s uncovered mineral wealth.

The project, dubbed the Billion Trillion Dollar Map, “will unlock the true worth of Africa’s mineral endowment,” Tom Butler, mining specialist at the Bank’s private finance arm, the International Finance Corp, said yesterday.

Speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, Butler said most of Africa’s subsoil resources have not been surveyed.

Doing so, in a public way, would be useful to policy makers, investors and the public, helping to boost development, he said, according to prepared remarks.

“There is yet an enormous amount of wealth left to discover,” he said.

“Coupled with in-country training and institutional support, and the work of exploration companies, this initiative will unlock the true worth of Africa’s mineral endowment.”

The World Bank , which calls accessible data on resources a “public good”, said it has already invested over $200 million in developing geological data for Africa over the past 10 years.

Currently, it is supporting a comprehensive airborne geological survey of the entire country of Malawi.

The World Bank will be using satellites and airborne surveys to fill geological gaps across the continent where a lack of adequate data hampers mining investments.

Mining companies and governments from sub-Saharan Africa who have expressed interest, a senior bank official told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Times are tough, so the mining companies are counting their pennies, but there is a lot of interest because it is exactly when commodity prices are low and the companies are reducing their investment budgets that having the information to guide their priorities is valuable,” said Paulo de Sa, senior manager at the World Bank’s mining unit.

De Sa met with 10 mining companies on the sidelines of an African mining conference, including Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines, who were interested in the fund.
Initially targeting southern and eastern Africa, De Sa said the fund would aim to collate existing data onto a single, digital platform that would be accessible to the public.

Besides helping to guide exploration investment, African governments could benefit by being able to negotiate better deals when handing concessions to mining companies, he said.
“If they know what they have in their territory, they are in a better position to fine-tune and calibrate the fiscal regime and mining laws,” De Sa said.

When Mozambique, for example, privatised its giant Moatize coal mine, it did not know the true potential of the coal basin until Brazilian miner Vale started exploration work.

De Sa said the bank, which has received expressions of interest from Malawi and Mozambique to assist with geological mapping, hoped to identify copper prospectivity in Zambia, Africa’s top producer of the metal.

“There is a lot more copper in Zambia than what is known, so we hope to identify the areas with more prospectivity and then the government will be able to attract more investment to areas because they know there will be a lot more certainty, a lot less risk,” he said.

The data could also be used by governments when planning infrastructure development or water resource allocations.

De Sa said the mapping fund hoped to unearth up to $1 trillion worth of new mineral resources on the continent.

Source: Business Standard