Senegal: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Senegal is located in Western Africa between Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. The total area of the country is 196,722 km2 with a population of 12,969,606 as of July 2012. Its climatic condition is mostly tropical.

The national flag of Senegal.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Ever since its independence, Senegal witnessed a lot of political disputes and separatist insurgency issues, despite which it has been able to maintain one of the most stable democracies in Africa.

Senegal has limited exploited natural resources, which include phosphates and iron ore. The mining industry does not play a significant role in the country’s economy. The economy relies greatly on donor assistance. The GDP of the country as of 2011 was $25.47 billion.

Overview of Resources

Senegal is one of the top producers of phosphate rock in the world. The country also produces other mineral commodities such as gold, laterite, basalt, cement, lime, limestone, clays natural gas, petroleum, salt, and sand. Phosphate mining plays a major role in its export industry. Senegal is also working on iron ore and oil exploration projects to diversify its mining industry.

Mining activities in Senegal are affected by its weather conditions as well. For instance, gold mining can take place only in the dry season from November through May as the country experiences rainy season from June through October.

Senegal’s mineral commodities production statistics for 2010 are provided below:

  • Laterite increased by 119% to 226 t from 103 t in 2009
  • Crude petroleum increased by 60% to 398,000 barrels from 249,000 barrels
  • Fuller’s earth clays (attapulgite) increased by 13% to 204,000 t from 181,000 t
  • Lime decreased by 48% to 24,000 t from 46,000 t in 2009
  • Gold decreased by 13% to 4,381 kg from 5,055 kg
  • Basalt decreased by 12% to 1,167 t from 1,321 t

Exports and imports data of Senegal for 2010 is as follows:

  • Exports to USA amounted to $5.1 million in 2010 compared to $6.9 million in 2009
  • Imports from USA amounted to $218 million in 2010 compared to $176 million in 2009. The imports include $17 million worth petroleum products, $2 million worth drilling and oilfield equipment, and $247,000 worth alumina and aluminum

The map of Senegal. Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Metals

The majority of Senegal’s gold mining activities are concentrated in the Sabodala gold district. The Sabodala mine produced 4,381 kg of gold in 2010 compared to 5,055 kg in 2009. Mine expansion is being carried out to increase the production to about 4 Mt/yr from 2 Mt/yr by 2012. Experts believe that the expanded mine will likely produce about 6,220 kg/yr of gold.

In 2010, Oromin Explorations Ltd. of Canada owned a 43.5% interest in the Oromin Joint Venture Group Ltd. (OJVG) gold project, which is a joint venture with Bendon International Ltd. (43.5% interest) and Badr Investment and Finance Co. (13% interest) of Saudi Arabia. In the same year, a feasibility study performed by Ausenco Solutions Canada Inc. and SRK Consulting Inc. of Canada revealed that the OJVG project can be developed as an open pit and underground mine. The various deposits within the project are Goulouma West, Goulouma South, Kourouloulou, Kerekounda, and Masato.

In 2010, the Massawa gold deposit was owned by a joint venture including Randgold Resources Ltd. of UK , Compagnie Senegalaise de Transports Transatlantiques Afrique de l’Ouest, and the Government each owning 83.25%, 6.75% and 10% interest, respectively.

Ore mineral reserves at Faleme are estimated to be 750 Mt of iron ore. In 2010, a joint-venture agreement was struck between Luxembourg-ArcelorMittal and National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. (NMD C) of India to develop the Faleme iron ore project in southeastern Senegal. The joint venture is expected to begin iron ore production by 2014.

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

In 2010, the Grande Côte Mineral Sands Project (GCMS P) was owned by a joint venture of Mineral Deposits Ltd. (MDL ) of Australia (90%) and the Government (10%). However, the project was operated by Grande Côte Operations SA. A feasibility study indicated that project’s average production would be about 575,000 t/yr of ilmenite, 11,000 t/yr of leucoxene, 80,000 t/yr of zircon, and 6,000 t/yr of rutile. The company is likely to start production at GCMS P by 2013.

Recent studies reveal that the west-central part of the Sedimentary basin contains some important deposits of limestone and marno-chalky. According to experts, global interest is rapidly increasing in Senegal’s heavy mineral sands.

Investment

Senegal’s mining industry is its infancy and requires a great deal of development as it is rich in numerous diverse and unexploited mineral and metal reserves such as platinum, copper, chromium, nickel, heavy minerals, decorative stones and building materials.

In order to attract foreign investment, Senegal has to upgrade its infrastructure along with implementing some investor-friendly policies. The government also needs to address the environmental issues arising due to mining activities. Independent gold mining without proper safety regulations is increasing ever since the Sabodala gold deposit was estimated to contain more than 1 million ounces of gold. In the village of Tenkhoto, miners are using low-tech methods to mine gold using elemental mercury, which is causing environmental pollution and poisoning.

Experts feel that Senegal needs to sort out the issues affecting the progress of its mining industry at the earliest to see better economic progress in the future.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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