Senior Group Category Manager at Endeavour Mining in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Balla Niambele, MBA, examines how mining can underpin the development of sustainable industries in West Africa, placing emphasis on the significance of local content and procurement, and the challenges and opportunities that come with these.
West Africa’s economic growth and development have long been intertwined with the mining sector. Yet we all know that mining’s impact extends well beyond mere economic contributions. It possesses the potential to ignite a variety of industrial sectors, fostering the growth of self-sustaining, sustainable industries.
Through strategic collaborations, capacity-building initiatives and streamlined procurement processes, mining companies can serve as catalysts for this transformation.
Supporting Local Manufacturing: mining operations require a diverse range of goods and services, from heavy machinery and specialised equipment to a variety of commodities (activated carbon, cyanides, fuel & lubricants etc). Rather than relying solely on imports, mining companies can cultivate a thriving ecosystem of advanced manufacturing within West Africa to produce some of these commodities locally.
By way of example, in Ghana, mining companies have successfully partnered with local manufacturers to fabricate crucial mining equipment. This collaborative approach not only reduces operational costs but also nurtures advanced manufacturing, elevating the region’s global industrial competitiveness. Ghana’s success story in this regard has led to a substantial increase in locally manufactured mining equipment, fostering economic growth and self-sufficiency.
Equally, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire are well-suited for the sustainable production of activated carbon, which is used in gold adsorption and recovery processes in the mining industry.
Nigeria can sustainably produce caustic soda, which is used in various mining processes, including ore leaching and ore neutralisation. The country, along with Mali or Burkina Faso, can also manufacture lime, which is essential for pH control and water treatment in mining operations.
Investing in Technological Advancement: mining companies can extend their support beyond local businesses by investing in technological innovation. Collaboration with local universities and research institutions can drive pioneering developments relevant to the mining sector.
For example, mining companies can establish research and development centres in conjunction with local universities, focusing on innovative mining technologies that enhance operational efficiency, environmental sustainability and worker safety. This kind of initiative will undoubtedly lead to significant improvements in operational efficiency and a reduction in environmental impact.
Strategic Partnerships: the development of sustainable industries necessitates strategic partnerships involving mining companies, local enterprises, government bodies and non-profit organisations. Local content policies, mandating the procurement of goods and services from local sources, can be a potent catalyst for local industry growth.
We have seen local content policies in Burkina Faso result in some uptick in the procurement of goods and services from local suppliers, spurring the growth of local businesses. This will be further improved with a collaborative and concertation framework among all stakeholders setting the stage ultimately for the development of local industries.
Capacity-Building Programmes: to lay the foundation for sustainable industries, mining companies can offer training and education opportunities. This encompasses scholarships, apprenticeships and vocational training programmes to equip residents with the requisite skills. Mining companies are already doing a great deal of this, albeit at smaller scales.
Challenges and Opportunities:
- Infrastructure and Logistics: our countries’ investments in infrastructure, encompassing transportation and logistics, can significantly reduce costs and create a conducive environment for industry expansion in West Africa.
- Regulatory Hurdles: complex regulatory environments present challenges to both mining companies and local businesses. Close collaboration with governments is pivotal to strike a balance between promoting local industries and maintaining the competitiveness of the mining sector.
- Skills Development: by capitalising on West Africa’s youthful and growing population, mining companies can invest in education and skills development. Through imparting a range of skills to local residents, this approach benefits not only the mining sector but also various other industries.
- Diversification: encouraging diversification into sectors such as agriculture and renewable energy can mitigate the risks associated with fluctuations in commodity prices. Collaborations between mining companies and businesses in these sectors exhibit promise.
- Technological Advancement: embracing advanced technologies, including automation and sustainable mining practices, enhances the mining sector’s efficiency and environmental responsibility. These advancements also set a precedent for other industries to follow.
In summary, mining in West Africa can serve as the cornerstone for the growth of sustainable industries. Through collaboration and a steadfast commitment to sustainability, mining companies can generate a lasting positive impact. West Africa holds the potential to emerge as a hub of sustainable industries, with mining companies leading the way.
By harnessing the power of local content, procurement and strategic partnerships, mining can propel economic growth while preserving the region’s distinctive heritage and natural resources. The examples in this article underscore the potential of mining to make substantial contributions to the growth of industries and regional development in West Africa.