Legitimizing Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Zimbabwe

Angola is rich in iron, copper, gold, diamonds, and other minerals.

Lubo Novak

Angola is generally known as oil-rich nation; oil accounts for 50% of the country’s GDP, 80% of the government’s revenues, and 90% of exports. Whereas Angola’s economy grew by an average rate of 20% between 2005 and 2007, growth slowed to 4.7% in 2014 as a result of falling oil prices. In an attempt to diversify its economy, Angola has began to develop sectors besides of oil and gas, including agriculture and, most notably, mining. Rich in iron, copper, gold, diamonds and other minerals, Angola is making concerted efforts to develop the full spectrum of its mineral wealth.

While many of Angola’s minerals remained unexplored, diamond mining is already big business in Angola. ENDIAMA, the national player, has a 32.8% stake in the fourth largest diamond mine in the world, CATOCA. The other shareholders are ALROSA with an equal share of 32.8%, ODEBRECHT with 16.4% and LLI Holding with 18%. ALROSA is a Russian diamond-producing company with an output of roughly 25% of the total world production. “CATOCA is Angola’s main diamond producer and at the same time, the fourth largest diamond mine in the world. The value of the rough diamonds in Angola, in 2014, amounted to $985 million for a total of 7.8 million carats. CATOCA is a leader with a share of 76% in volume and 47% in value. We aim to sustainably recover diamond reserves, ensuring that our products are internationally distinguished by their high value and quality,” said Sergei Amelin, general director of CATOCA.

CATOCA, however, continues to develop its production capacities with new exploration in surrounding regions. “In 2002 and 2003, work was carried out the results of which enabled us to create projects for the development of the concept of exploration work on the neighboring territories of CATOCA. As far as growth for 2014 is concerned, the geological prospecting work in the Gambo, Luaxe, Gango, Quitubia, Tchiafua, Luangue and Vulege concessions, was given sequence to, and in some cases, initial studies showed very promising results in regards to the feasibility of the projects. The total area of the concessions is 16,000 sq. meters,” added Amelin. ALROSA is also interested in developing further diamond projects with a new joint venture signed with ENDIAMA in 2015 called Kimang. Each entity will control a 50% stake and the first exploration area of interest is Kuango.

In order to develop other minerals present in Angola’s soil, the government is first conducting a geological survey of the whole country, one of the largest, if not the largest, geological surveys in progress in the world. The project is called PLANAGEO and the aim is to map what areas have the greatest potential. Three international consortiums were selected to conduct this work: CITIC, a Chinese construction giant; UTE PLANAGEO, a Spanish-Portuguese venture; and Costa Negócios, a Brazilian company. Each is responsible for a different part of Angola roughly equivalent to one-third of the country. The consortiums are tasked with mapping the geological potential of their territories. In order to do this, airborne geophysical surveys must be conducted first. The data collected and the results deduced will remain classified until the project is expected to come to completion in 2017.

The three consortiums do not perform the airborne geophysical surveys themselves, but have subcontracted other firms specializing in this field. CITIC is working with CGG and UTE PLANAGEO and Costa Negócios work with Xcalibur. Both CGG, which will cover 25% of Angola, and Xcalibur, covering the other 75%, are very experienced in Africa and rely on their South African offices for support. “Xcalibur commenced with the project in August 2014 and there is close to a 1.2 million line-km that we have to cover. We have been flying with four operating systems and to date we have covered about 68% of our territory. We expect to finish by end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016,” said Andrés Blanco, director at Xcalibur. The companies have adapted the technology used to suit the conditions on the ground. “The technology is a combination of the plane and the equipment. In terms of the equipment, Xcalibur uses best available standard market equipment. We do however have a proprietary acquisition system that the company has developed and we have a patent for integrating the equipment on the aircraft. We also have developed an advanced methodology for magnetic noise reduction on our planes to do real time compensation. The aircrafts that we utilize are usually used for crop dusting and firefighting. We have made modifications to the aircrafts to use them for airborne geophysics. We have also developed an automated operating system which enables the crews to be very efficient,” added Blanco.

However, CGG and Xcalibur only collect and process the data with the interpretation and quality control (QC) left up to the consortiums themselves. Some have chosen to also subcontract this work to other companies. One of these companies is Geosondas which prides itself on its youthful staff and energy. Geosondas has already been involved with CATOCA and in addition to data interpretation and QC also provides drilling and blasting services. “Geosondas is one of three companies that are doing the QC for the projects. We were approached by the Ministry of Geology and Mines to do the QC for the project. The data gathered from the airborne surveys conducted for Angola is analyzed by Geosondas to see if it is correct and if those companies doing the airborne works are fulfilling the requirements,” said Judsi de Sousa Calado, administrator at Geosondas. “Geosondas and the other QC companies are not divided and we analyze data from all the blocks,” added de Sousa Calado.

The PLANAGEO project is certainly good news for Angola and the country looks to greatly benefit from its natural riches in the future. Some mining players have already expressed interest even in these early stages of the development of the mining sector beyond diamonds. “Geosondas has been approached by companies looking to get involved in the exploration stages; however, we are not allowed to discuss the PLANAGEO project results with these companies. It is good that the project is bringing attention to Angola and there is a significant amount of companies sending proposals to come and invest in the country. The interest is not only in diamonds, but in other commodities such as copper and gold as well,” explained Judsi de Sousa Calado.

This article was written as part of research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2016. A pre-release report on the Central African Copperbelt was released in October 2015 and can be accessed here. To participate in this report, please contact Sharon Saylar at ssaylor@gbreports.com.

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