The race for critical minerals in Africa: A blessing or another resource curse?

James Boafo*, Jacob Obodai, Eric Stemn, Philip Nti Nkrumah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

There is currently an exponential growth in the global demand for critical minerals, particularly lithium, to meet clean energy and decarbonisation objectives. However, sustainable supply of these minerals is at risk due to declining ore grades, available extraction and processing technologies, socio-environmental concerns, and geopolitical challenges. Africa hosts substantial critical minerals resources, and the continent is currently being positioned as a major global player in the critical minerals supply chain. As a result, there is a rush for Africa's critical mineral resources through investment in exploration activities and license acquisition by foreign mining companies. Drawing on the case of lithium mining in Africa, we analysed the urgency claims of critical minerals in the African context and assessed the inherent socio-ecological impacts. We found that the urgency claims of critical minerals largely serve the geostrategic and economic interests of western countries and China. The rush for Africa's critical minerals is producing significant socio-ecological impacts, including driving loss of rich biodiversity, displacement of communities and breeding new forms of illegalities in the resource sector. Based on our findings, we argue that the current race for Africa's critical mineral resources does not serve the interest of Africa and it is likely to create adverse long-term socio-ecological impacts rather than benefits for the continent unless appropriate sustainable measures, including strategic planning, are carefully considered, and fully implemented. Our findings have implications for policies seeking to promote sustainable and responsible mining in Africa, and elsewhere with similar challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105046
JournalResources Policy
Volume93
Early online date8 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Critical minerals
  • Lithium
  • Clean energy
  • Africa

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