Is North America the next cobalt producing giant?
In the last decade, increased demand for rechargeable batteries and electric vehicles has led to growing demand for cobalt. Cobalt possesses high thermal stability, high energy storage capacity and is resistant to corrosion, making it a very suitable material to use in the clean energy industry.
Approximately 70% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Almost all of this is exported to China, which in turn is the largest exporter of refined cobalt.
However, the heavy reliance on cobalt from the DRC continues to cause malpractices within the supply chain. Ethical and human rights issues - including child labour, unregulated mining and corruption - taint the country’s cobalt industry. Increased criticism from consumers, who demand a supply chain untouched by these issues, has resulted in major players in the industry sourcing the mineral from other countries.
DRC has the world’s biggest cobalt reserves, with approximately 3.6 million tons. However, North America is estimated to have a total of 285,000 tons of cobalt reserves, of which Canada’s share is 230,000 tons. Although these volumes are much smaller than those found in Congo, Canada’s cobalt is of the highest grade; so much so, in fact, that investors including Bill Gates have set up a fund for cobalt exploration on the continent.
The development of cobalt mining in North America will help to increase competition in cobalt production, which, it is hoped, will in turn encourage ethical mining in Congo.
To push for more transparency in cobalt mining, more than 380 companies have committed to source the mineral from responsible mines, through the Responsible Mineral Initiative. BMW is among the leaders in this initiative, and has signed a $110mn deal to source cobalt from Morocco in a bid to avoid working with the DRC. Other companies including Ford, IBM and Tesla are seeking to change the landscape for cobalt mining, either by employing blockchain or by looking for other sources.
With more than 50 deposits in the US and others in Canada, there is potential for the region to produce high-grade cobalt while maintaining an ethical and transparent supply chain.
Lemaiyan Lemein is a mining engineer, researcher and journalist based in Kenya.
AngloGold Ashanti establishes BG Umoja JV in Tanzania
AngloGold Ashanti, in line with it s strategy to ensure a sustainable contribution to the economies of host countries, has established the BG Umoja joint venture (JV), in Tanzania.
Awarded a $186m two-year mining contract for the Nyankanga and Geita Hill underground mining projects, the 80/20 joint venture is a partnership between Africa Underground Mining Services (AUMS) Tanzania, a subsidiary of Australia’s Perenti Group, and local drilling services and mining- supply company, Geofields Tanzania Limited.
The partnership is modelled on a similar underground mining joint venture at the Company’s Obuasi Redevelopment Project in Ghana between AUMS Ghana and Accra-based, wholly Ghanaian-owned Rocksure and will help build local specialised mining capacity.
“We’re working with our experienced mining contractors to assist in establishing local joint ventures for long-term transfer of sustainable skills, and to continue building on our sustainable local procurement programmes,” commented Sicelo Ntuli, AngloGold Ashanti’s Chief Operating Officer: Africa.
“AngloGold Ashanti is building sustainable local procurement programmes that will allow it to stimulate economic and social development at all of its operations, evidenced by the significant contribution Geita has made to the fiscus and people of Tanzania.”
AngloGold Ashanti’s annual expenditure with indigenous Tanzanian suppliers has almost tripled to $162mn since 2016. The company’s local team in Tanzania has set itself an ambitious target of 60% to 70% of all expenditures with indigenous Tanzanian companies, by 2025.
Scope 3 Emissions
In addition, AngloGold Ashanti’s Geita Gold Mine has awarded a two-year fuel transportation contract, worth approximately $10.8m a year, to two local contractors - one of which is originally from Geita. This is in line with the mine’s commitment to contribute to the economies of host communities. The Geita-based company was part of Geita Mine’s supply chain capacity building initiative for host community suppliers, a partnership between the Mine and the National Economic Empowerment Council.
To influence Scope 3 emissions, trucks are to be compliant with EURO IV emissions standards, tankers are to be made of an aluminium alloy material to reduce weight and the age of the fleet will be maintained at less than six years.
Diversity & Inclusion
The contractors already employ women fuel tanker drivers, fulfilling the Mine’s requirements for diversity and inclusion. The two contractors both own workshop facilities in Geita town and participate in social initiatives aimed at uplifting the lives of host community residents.
AngloGold Ashanti has been operating at Geita Gold Mine for more than 20 years, with the project initially a single pit mine, evolving now to a predominantly underground operation, employing 5,700 employees and contractors.
Earlier this year, the Government of Tanzania recognized AngloGold Ashanti’s contribution to the economy of the country, awarding it for its outstanding performance in a number of areas, including environmental and safety performance, corporate social investment, the best taxpayer in the mining sector, the runners up in local business content and overall best performer in the mining sector in Tanzania in 2019/2020.
Geita Gold Mine
Geita, one of AngloGold Ashanti’s flagship mines, is located in north-western Tanzania in the Lake Victoria goldfields of Mwanza region, about 120km from Mwanza and 4km west of the town of Geita. It has been in operation as a large-scale mine since 2000.