This article is an extract from GTDT Mining 2022. Click here for the full guide.
The global mining economy commenced 2021 on an upswing and continued with strong contributions to the global economy despite the ongoing impact of the covid-19 pandemic on industries around the world. The past year has demonstrated the resiliency of the mining industry and today the mining industry is a crucial component in pandemic recovery efforts. Trends in the industry today include a growing focus on mining companies’ environmental, social and governance commitments and opportunities for green energy transition.
North America and Greenland
In Canada, the mining sector accounts for a significant portion of the economy. Canada is a leading global producer of several minerals and metals, most notably in the production of cobalt, diamonds, gold, nickel, potash, platinum group metals, primary aluminium, salt, titanium concentrates and uranium.
Key exports include aluminium, coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, nickel, potash, steel, uranium and zinc. Recently, there has been a focus on minerals used in battery technology, such as cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel, with graphite being exclusively mined in Quebec.
In Mexico, the mining industry contributes a considerable portion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Additionally, the social benefits of mining has spread throughout the country, making Mexico a destination for foreign investment. The target minerals are basalt, coal, copper, gold, lead, limestone, quarried aggregate, silver and zinc.
The past few years have seen significant increases in the production of barite, bentonite, bismuth, cadmium, celestite, coal, copper, fluorite, gold, gypsum, lead, manganese, magnesium sulphate, molybdenum, selenium, silver, wollastonite and zinc, among other certain minerals. Although significant lithium deposits are located in Mexico, there has been no significant lithium production to date, but in 2022, the government of Mexico has introduced the possibility of reforming the mining laws of the country in an attempt to nationalise lithium. However, there are many political, legal and constitutional challenges to be overcome in the years to come in order for the government to accomplish this current desire, so the outcome of this nationalisation initiative is still uncertain.
In the United States, metal mine production contributes significantly to the economy, with copper, gold, iron ore and zinc as the main contributors. Industrial mineral production, particularly crushed stone, cement and construction sand and gravel, also plays a large role in the US economy.
In Greenland, the target minerals are coloured corundum (ruby and pink sapphires), diamonds, eudialyte (zirconium and rare-earth elements), gold, ilmenite, iron, lead, molybdenum, nickel and zinc. There has been no increased interest in minerals used in battery technology or renewable energy. There are currently seven exploitation licences, but as of writing, only two mines have begun production.
Mining plays an important role in Latin American economies. The region includes many copper, gold, lithium, and silver reserves, as well as significant reserves of potash. With its abundance of natural resources, the region has recently seen considerable foreign direct investment. The region has the potential for promising growth in today’s global economy. For example, many Chinese companies have targeted investments in Latin America.
In Argentina, mining has been one of the fastest-growing sectors and is the fourth largest exporter in the country. Target minerals are mainly copper, gold, lithium and silver, but also include aluminium, boron, iron, molybdenum lead, potash, uranium, vanadium and zinc.
Argentina is one of the largest producers of lithium in the world, and the increasing global trend regarding battery minerals has also taken place in Argentina.
In Brazil, the mining industry plays an important role in the economy. Mineral exploitation has increased since 2006, with production peaking in 2011. Recently, proceeds from mining activities, while remaining high, have declined primarily due to the decrease in mineral commodities prices, particularly iron ore, which accounts for the majority of Brazilian mineral production. Brazil hosts a great geological diversity of metallic and non-metallic minerals, including some (ie, lithium, niobium and tantalite) that have increased in relevance in light of recent technological breakthroughs. Target minerals are aluminium, bauxite, copper, gold, iron ore, kaolin, manganese, niobium and others. Rare-earth reserves have been actively prospected in Brazil, and if certain projects in south-east Brazil become viable, this will likely increase interest in such minerals.
In Chile, mining is the most important sector of the economy. The income from royalties and other general taxes and duties contribute significantly to national revenues. Chile has favourable conditions for mining activities, both geographically and geologically. While the main metallic target mineral is copper, the country also has several projects concerning gold, iron, lead, molybdenum, silver and zinc. Lithium and nitrate are the most significant non-metallic minerals. There have been, however, recent news articles regarding the nationalisation of the copper and lithium industries in Chile, and the increase in government royalties on certain commodities by the newly elected government, leading many producers and explorers with projects in Chile to watch developments closely.
In Ecuador, the mineral resources are similar to those of Chile and Peru; however, most of the country remains unexplored. Production has been almost non-existent, despite attractive copper, gold and silver deposits. Delays in development can be attributed to erred public policy and the absence of legal security, among other reasons. Currently, the target minerals are copper, gold and silver. There is also potential in other minerals such as coal, iron, lithium, potash, rare earths, and uranium.
In Peru, mining represents a large portion of the country’s GDP and much of the country’s exports. In recent years, mining activity has generated added value, higher foreign exchange and revenues for taxes, and created direct and indirect jobs. This has resulted in improvements in the potential growth of economic activity, the achievement of social inclusion and the promotion of general welfare. Peru is a global leader in the production of mineral commodities such as copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, tin and zinc.
Angola is rich in natural resources, with significant reserves of copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, manganese and phosphates, among others. Angola was previously a major copper, gold and iron ore producer, until its mineral development was greatly impaired (with the exception of diamond mining) by nearly 30 years of civil war following independence in 1975, ending in 2002. Angola has since resumed mineral mining and implemented significant exploration and mining projects; however, the country’s true mining potential remains undiscovered. Recently, target minerals include copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore and manganese. The country is also committed to diversifying investment in industrial and construction mineral resources (ie, granite, marble and quartz).
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mining industry consists mainly of cassiterite, cobalt, coltan, copper, diamonds, gold, wolframite and zinc. The mining industry is important to the country, as it is the backbone of the national economy, contributing substantially to the national GDP. Target minerals are cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, manganese, tin and zinc.
In Ghana, the mining sector is a significant source of direct domestic revenue, and the total mining fiscal receipts have increased in recent years. The total workforce employed by mining companies has also seen an increase. Additionally, the mining sector is crucial for attracting investment into Ghana. The main minerals extracted are bauxite, diamonds, gold and manganese, with gold accounting for a large majority of mining-sector revenue and activity. Ghana is also on track to become West Africa’s first lithium producer, following an updated scoping study on the Ewoyaa lithium project in 2021.
In Mozambique, mining is a major driver of the economy and its contribution to the GDP continues to increase. The country has been developing a mineral export promotion programme to enhance depleted foreign exchange reserves. As a result, senior industry players from Australia, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa have acquired interests in various mining areas across the country. Minerals used in battery technology, such as graphene, graphite and vanadium, have also been catching investors’ attention. Mozambique hosts one of the world’s largest aluminium smelters and is one of the largest producers of beryllium and tantalite. Copper, iron ore, lead, heavy mineral sands, high-grade bauxite and titanium are also found within the country. The province of Tete is known as one of the world’s largest coal reserves, although its production has decreased in recent years.
In South Africa, the mining sector is a key contributor to the economy. South Africa has large resources of aluminosilicates, chromium, gold, manganese and platinum-group metals, and accounts for a significant portion of the global production of aluminosilicates, ferro-chromium, platinum-group metals and vanadium exports, and is one of the world’s largest exporters of gold, platinum-group metals and vanadium. South Africa also has large deposits of coal, copper, diamonds, iron and zinc, and high-grade manganese ore reserves. Increased global demand for manganese, which is a key element in the production of lithium-ion batteries, has resulted in increased manganese production in South Africa.
Zambia has a long history of mining, mainly in cobalt and copper. Mine development has historically been concentrated in the Copperbelt Province, which is an area known for hosting high-grade deposits. The country also hosts small-scale coal, gold, manganese and zinc deposits. Exploration has recently expanded to include prospecting for diamonds, nickel and uranium. Zambia is further known for its gemstones and is a leading producer of high-quality stones. Significant deposits of coal-bed methane have been discovered through recent exploration. The target minerals are mainly base metals, gold, platinum-group metals and uranium. However, exploration applications for the mining of cobalt, lead, manganese and zinc have increased.
In Finland, the mining industry plays an important role in the country as one of the leading mining countries in Europe. Mining activity is currently concentrated around base metals, diamonds, gold, industrial minerals and platinum-group metals. Finland also has many high-class geological databases available on the internet. Finland’s mining production has increased significantly in recent years, and investments by Finnish mines have also seen a significant increase. The mining sector provides employment to many residents throughout the country. Many minerals have good discovery potential in Finland, such as chromium, cobalt, copper, feldspar, limestone, lithium, nickel, niobium, platinum-group metals, quartz, rare-earth metals, talc, tellurium, titanium, vanadium and zinc.
In Sweden, mining has seen an increasingly important role in the economy, with ore production rising significantly in recent years. Numerous companies with exploration permits are actively searching for minerals. Currently, operating mines produce gold, iron ore and sulphide ore. However, other minerals can also be found in sufficiently large quantities. Sweden is the biggest producer of iron ore in the European Union and is among the leading producers of copper, gold, lead, silver and zinc. Exploration for other minerals such as lithium, molybdenum, tellurium, vanadium and wolfram, and has also caught the interest of foreign prospectors.
The mining industry in the United Kingdom includes thousands of companies. Energy minerals, such as coal, natural gas and oil, dominate the industry, followed by industrial minerals such as china clay, potash and silica. The United Kingdom also extracts copper, gold, iron ore and silver, and industrial aggregates used for concrete and gravel in construction and road building. The UK mining sector is largely focused on mining activities outside the country; however, recent years have seen an increase in domestic development. Most mining within the United Kingdom is concentrated on construction minerals, such as clay and shale, gypsum and slate. While the United Kingdom produces several different types of minerals, it only produces few in meaningful quantities. There are currently no plants or production of key minerals used in battery technology or renewable energy.
Asia and Australasia
In Japan, several minerals are important to the country. For a ‘specified mineral’, a tender bid must be conducted for each specified area to be designated by the government, and the most competitive applicant will be granted the mining right for such specified area. The specified minerals are:
- oil and combustible natural gas;
- antimony, bismuth, cobalt, copper, gold, iron, iron sulphide, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, silver, thorium, tin, tungsten, uranium and zinc ores;
- barites, which constitute hydrothermal deposits located subsea or beneath the sea;
- cobalt, copper, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, tungsten and zinc ores, which constitute sedimentary deposits located subsea or beneath the sea; and
In India, mining is an important economic activity as the country is one of the largest exporters of bauxite, chromite, iron ore, manganese and mica. Through several public-sector companies, the government is the largest participant in the domestic mining industry. The government has also initiated various reforms to allow for greater private sector participation in mineral activities since much of the country’s potential mineral resources have not been fully explored. India produces numerous minerals, including atomic, fuel, metallic and non-metallic minerals, and is a leading producer of metallic minerals including aluminium, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, manganese and zinc.
In Myanmar, many precious stones can be found including diamonds, ruby and sapphire, and the largest deposits of jade in the world. Many mineral products are widespread throughout the country, including antimony, copper, gold, lead, nickel, silver, tin, tungsten and zinc, with copper as the largest mining export. Depending on the targeted mineral, certain mining activities may be prohibited in Myanmar. The recent introduction of new and amended mining laws has opened up the mining sector to more foreign investment, allowing for 100 per cent foreign participation and investment in large-scale mineral production.
The Philippines has been recognised as one of the world’s most mineralised countries, with estimates of highly valuable untapped reserves of copper, gold, nickel, silver and zinc. Top mineral exports are copper, gold and nickel. Other target minerals include calcite, chromite, feldspar, gypsum, iron, mica, quartz and sulphur, as well as non-metallic minerals such as clay, limestone, marble, sand and gravel, and other quarry materials. The Philippines also hosts some of the world’s largest reserves of cobalt.
Thailand produces mainly industrial minerals and industrial rocks, including basalt, dolomite, gypsum, limestone and rock salt. Its mining industry has been less active since 2017 when the new Minerals Act was enacted with a policy to suspend gold mining and impose restrictions on the use of agricultural land. Recently, mining production for almost all minerals, with a few exceptions, has reduced.
In Uzbekistan, mining is one of the country’s most important and strategic industries. It is one of the world’s largest producers of gold and uranium, and also produces coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphate, potassium, tungsten, silver, zinc and other minerals. Different regions of the country focus on different minerals. For instance, the Navoi province is famous for its large deposits of gold and uranium, while the Tashkent province is known for its coal, copper and gold deposits.
Cassels salutes the global mining industry! The resilience, perseverance and ingenuity of the mining industry have helped the global economy survive through an unprecedented global pandemic and continue to thrive. Cassels remains at your service with unequalled knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. We hope to see you all at upcoming, ‘in person’ mining conferences around the world!