The next major iron ore supplier is speculated to be Central and West Africa. Until recently, iron ore mining in Africa has seen South Africa at the forefront with Kumba Resources as the largest producer in the African iron ore mining industry. As traditional iron ore mining regions have not been adequately meeting Chinese demand, it has been posited that by 2015, China would import 50% of its iron ore from other Chinese mines as opposed to their usual reliance on Australia, Brazil and India.
The challenge appears to be infrastructure, which has also proved to be the primary constraint in South Africa’s participation in the iron ore mining industry in Africa. Large scale iron ore production is said to be driven by new rail infrastructure in the West African region. Iron ore mining in Africa is also extending the amount of investment in infrastructure. Rio Tinto Plc., as well as ArcelorMittal, have dedicated billions towards the development of ports and railways.
Within the iron ore mining industry in Africa, there is a large demand for the training of locals in the skills of exploration geology and drilling, operational techniques; both underground and open pit and the processing of minerals. Expats are therefore sought to bring professional knowledge and experience into countries such as Mauritania. Iron ore recruitment in Africa mostly includes skills sought for exploration and production managers, general and country management, metallurgists, plant management, shift bosses, operators and mining/mechanical engineers.
Skills are sourced for iron ore recruitment for and from iron ore mining countries within Africa and around the globe. These include Australia, Brazil, India, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, United States, Canada, Iran, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Korea, Turkey, Austria, Algeria, Egypt, Mongolia, Vietnam, Norway, Germany, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Cuba.
About 20 companies, including the likes of BHP Billiton, Vale and Rio Tinto have ventured into this region, where reserves are proven to reach 400 million tonnes in the next 8 years. By 2025, Africa is predicted to be responsible for around 10% of the world’s iron ore supply. The increase in the steel market and iron ore consumption signifies an increase in development opportunities for West African iron ore production; of which about over 60% will be exported to China. Companies such as Equatorial Resources are in the process of developing two iron ore projects in the Republic of Congo, currently mid-way through their drilling program and having set exploration targets of 1.3 billion – 2.2 billion tons, between 30% and 65% iron for one of their projects.
Due to the fact that the iron ore mining industry is mostly export-governed, this entails opportunities for logistics and shipping industries. Investment is also likely to be spurred for mining service companies which have long served the Southern African iron ore sector. Africa may indeed become the new iron ore hot spot, comprising the powerful combination of a vast base of untapped resources and investment from established mining giants.