Africa in spotlight amid global scramble for metals

STORY: The African Mining Indaba conference opened in Cape Town on Monday (May 9), just as global focus shifts to the continent in a search for new sources of metals.

Amid the conflict in Ukraine, sanctions on top producer Russia have increased the Africa risk appetite for major miners, who find themselves with few alternatives.

Companies and investors are considering projects they may have previously overlooked.

Governments are also looking to Africa, anxious to ensure their countries can procure enough metals.

Organizers say this year's conference, running from May 9-12, will be attended by the highest-ranking U.S. government official in years, as well as representatives from the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Corporation - a sign perhaps of wealthy countries' concerns about securing supply.

But the risks associated with mining in sub-Saharan Africa remain.

The acute security challenge facing mines in the gold-rich Sahel was highlighted last month: Russia's Nordgold abandoning its Taparko mine in Burkina Faso over an increasing threat from militants.

Even the continent's most industrialized economy, South Africa, has its challenges.

Deteriorating rail infrastructure there is forcing some coal producers to resort to trucking their product to ports.

Russia is responsible for 7% of global nickel supply, 10% of platinum and 25-30% of palladium.

With that off the table, Africa's rich deposits start looking a lot more attractive.

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