An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview
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O. Minerals

Africa produces nearly all the diamonds, two-thirds of all the gold and cobalt, a third of the manganese, and a quarter of the copper, produced in the non-communist world. (Communist countries' mineral output is largely unknown.)

South Africa contains huge reserves of coal, but other African areas are less well supplied with this basic industrial mineral. Rich deposits of iron ore have been found in West Africa, Algeria, and South Africa, where production is already on a large scale.

The 'Copperbelt' area (32) of Northern Rhodesia and Katanga (Congo), which yields a fifth of the non-communist world's copper, is also rich in cobalt, uranium and other minerals.

The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1870, and the development of the Transvaal goldfields in the 1880's, transformed South Africa's history and made it the world's largest producer of both these precious metals (38). Later Ghana, Sierra Leone, Angola, South-West Africa and Tanganyika, and especially Kasai (Congo), became important sources of diamonds, and the South African gold- fields are now partly dependent on their yield of uranium, the extraction of gold alone being often uneconomic once the richest deposits have been worked out.

Petroleum is being extracted in Nigeria and Egypt, but the biggest African oilfields are in the deserts of Algeria and Libya, where exploitation began only a few years ago. Large deposits of natural gas have also been tapped in Algeria (2, 4).

Among the rarer minerals that have important uses in modern engineering in alloys with steel, copper, etc., Nigeria produces the greater part of the non-communist world's columbium, and South Africa and the Rhodesias are major sources of beryllium and vanadium.

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