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Angola’s mineral renaissance: Beyond oil to rare earths and diamonds

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Long hailed as a prominent oil exporter in Africa, Angola is now capturing international attention for its vast mineral reserves, largely untapped until now. Despite oil contributing roughly half of the country’s fiscal revenues, it’s the burgeoning interest in its mineral wealth that’s sparking global curiosity.

While Angola boasts a thriving diamond mining sector, accounting for about 8% of global production, approximately 60% of its land remains unexplored for metals and minerals.

Bryony Richards, an economic geologist at the University of Utah specializing in exploration and critical minerals, notes, “Angola has so many mineral deposits but so few mines.” The country holds vast reserves of critical and rare earth minerals like copper, cobalt, manganese and lithium, offering a potential diversification away from oil and diamonds.

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Diamonds continue to dominate Angola’s mining sector, with production expected to surge by 50% in 2024, fueled by projects like Luele, managed by state-controlled miner Catoca. De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, is also expanding its presence in the country.

Yet, the spotlight is increasingly turning to Angola’s other resources. Recent investments include Pensana’s Longonjo rare earths project and Canadian miner Ivanhoe’s exploration rights covering vast areas.

The Longonjo deposit, adjacent to the Lobito rail Corridor, aims to produce a high-value mixed rare earth carbonate. Ivanhoe, on the other hand, holds greenfield prospecting rights in Moxico and Cuando Cubango provinces.

Foreign governments, including the US and EU, are keenly interested in Angola’s mining potential. Agreements for scientific cooperation and sustainable investment facilitation underscore a growing partnership.

Despite the allure of Angola’s mineral wealth, challenges persist. Landmines from past conflicts, corruption concerns, and infrastructure deficiencies pose obstacles. Water scarcity and technological limitations further complicate development efforts.

However, efforts to enhance transparency and reform the economy under President Joao Lourenco offer hope for a brighter future. International investment, if managed responsibly, could unlock Angola’s mining potential and drive sustainable growth.

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