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Out of Africa: The minerals that make the world go round

updated 6:51 AM EDT, Thu July 25, 2013

How Africa's resources fuel the world

From laptops to cell phones, cars to airplanes, all kinds of everyday products are made using minerals that come from Africa. It's no exaggeration to say that the world depends on Africa's natural resources.

Those resources are crucial exports for many African countries, and while resource wealth doesn't always benefit ordinary people, there is no doubt that the global commodities boom is helping to power the economies of Africa's resource-rich nations.

Click on the categories to the left, or use the arrows on the side to see just a few of the countless products that use Africa's natural resources, and how those raw materials fuel African economies.

Cars

Catalytic converters are fitted to cars to reduce pollution, and platinum and rhodium are key components. Africa produces most of the world's platinum and rhodium.

South Africa platinum

South Africa rhodium

% Global Production (2012)

$1,411/oz

Market price of platinum (July 2013)

$1,000/oz

Market price of rhodium (July 2013)

focus on:

South Africa

  • 128 metric tons

    of platinum
    (2012)

  • 170 tons

    of gold
    (2012)

  • 8.2M carats

    of diamonds
    (2011)

  • 255M metric tons

    of coal
    (2011)

As well as platinum and rhodium, South Africa is a major producer of gold, diamonds, coal and iron ore.

Over the past 10 years, the mining industry has contributed around $200 billion to the country's GDP and export earnings, in real terms.

513,000

people employed in
the mining sector (2011)

$408 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Mined tantalum only

Electronics

Cell phones, laptops and other small electronic devices use parts made from tantalum. It is a key export for some African countries, but has been implicated in funding conflict in DR Congo.

Africa tantalum

Mozambique
Rwanda
DR Congo
Ethiopia
Others

% Global Production (2011)

$262/kg

Market price of tantalite ore (July 2013)

focus on:

Mozambique

  • 90 to 260 metric tons

    of tantalum
    (2011)

  • 500 kg

    of gold
    (2011)

Despite increases in tantalum output, agriculture is currently far more important than mining for Mozambique.

But the country also has huge coal reserves and a large gas field was discovered off its northern coast in 2011. They have brought significant foreign investments that could have a huge effect on Mozambique's economy.

60,000

artisanal miners employed
in gold mining (2011)

$12.8 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Jewelry

In 2011 Africa produced more than half of the world's diamonds, nearly three quarters of the world's platinum and a fifth of its gold.

Africa diamonds

Botswana
Zimbabwe
DR Congo
South Africa
Angola
Others

% Global Production (2011)

$6,270

Market price of diamond 4/4 carat (July 2013)

focus on:

Botswana

  • 22.9M carats

    of diamonds
    (2011)

  • $4.34 Bn

    value of diamonds
    exports (2011)

  • 75%

    of export earnings
    from diamonds (2011)

Botswana is the world's second-biggest producer of gem diamonds, which are vital to its economy.

It is classified as a middle-income country, helped by a diamond industry that in 2011 accounted for half of government revenue.

11,000

people employed in
the mining sector (2010)

$17.3 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Batteries

Rechargeable batteries often use cobalt in their electrodes and demand for portable electronic devices has created a huge market for the mineral.

Africa cobalt

DR Congo
Zimbabwe
Botswana
South Africa
Others

% Global Production (2011)

$13.50/lb

Market price of cobalt (July 2013)

focus on:

DR Congo

  • 52,000 metric tons

    of cobalt
    (2011)

  • 19.25M carats

    of diamonds
    (2011)

  • 60 to 95 metric tons

    of tantalum
    (2011)

The mining and mineral processing sector accounted for 15.5% of DR Congo's GDP in 2010, with mining exports valued at an estimated $8.48 billion -- nearly half of that from cobalt.

But mineral mining has been implicated in funding conflict in the country.

1.4 Million

people employed in
artisanal mining (2011)

$15.7 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Chromium produced from chromite, aluminum from bauxite

Airplanes

Jet engines use superalloys that often contain cobalt and chromium. Many aircraft parts are made from aluminum alloys, which can account for up to 80% of a passenger jet's weight.

South Africa chromite

Guinea bauxite

% Global Production (2011)

$2.42/kg

Market price of ferrochrome (July 2013)

$0.8/lb

Market price of aluminum (July 2013)

focus on:

Guinea

  • 19.7M metric tons

    of bauxite
    (2012)

  • 300,000 carats

    of diamonds
    (2011)

  • 23 metric tons

    of gold
    (2012)

Guinea has almost half of the world's bauxite reserves, as well as important iron ore, gold and diamond reserves.

Minerals accounted for a quarter of the country's GDP and about 95% of export earnings in 2011. In the next decade, Guinea is predicted to become a world-leading producer of iron ore, which could reshape its economy.

$5 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Electricity

Africa produces coal, gas and uranium. Uranium is the source of nuclear fuel, which provides around 14% of the world's electricity.

Africa uranium

Niger
Namibia
Malawi

% Global Production (2011)

$38/lb

Market price of uranium oxide (July 2013)

focus on:

Namibia

  • 1.2M carats

    of diamonds
    (2011)

  • 3,840 metric tons

    of uranium
    (2011)

  • 50%

    of export earnings
    from uranium (2011)

Namibia's economy is heavily dependent on mineral exports. As well as uranium, it produces zinc and diamonds.

In 2011 its diamond exports were worth $714 million and its uranium exports about $558 million. In total, the mining industry contributes 8% of GDP.

14,300

people employed in
the mining sector (2011)

$12.5 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

Oil

In 2012, Africa produced a tenth of all the world's oil -- around 9.4 million barrels per day -- up nearly 8% on 2011.

Africa oil

Nigeria
Angola
Algeria
Libya
Egypt
Others

% Global Production (2011)

$102.47/barrel

Market price of oil (July 2013)

focus on:

Nigeria

  • 2.5M

    barrels of oil/day
    (2011)

  • 80%

    of government revenue
    from oil (2011)

  • 95%

    of foreign exchange
    earnings from oil (2011)

In 2011 the hydrocarbon sector -- including production of crude oil, natural gas and refined petroleum products -- made up about 15% of Nigeria's real GDP.

Nigeria has 37 billion barrels of proven reserves of oil -- enough to keep supplying oil at 2011 levels for 40 years.

$244 billion

Total national GDP (2011)

IntierraRMG, U.S. Geological Survey, British Geological Survey, World Bank, CIA World Factbook, BP Statistical Review of World Energy, South African Chamber of Mines, Botswana Central Statistics Office

Produced by Mark Tutton and Milena Veselinovic. Designed by Ines Torre. Built by Nav Garcha.

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