Minerals And Resources
Africa has the world's richest concentration of minerals and gems. In South Africa, the Bushveld Complex, one of the largest masses of igneous rock on Earth, contains major deposits of strategic metals such as platinum, chromium, and vanadium—metals that are indispensable in tool making and high tech industrial processes. The Bushveld complex is about 2 billion years old.
Another spectacular intrusion of magmatic rocks composed of olivine, augite, and hypersthene occurred in the Archean Eon over 2.5 billion years ago in Zimbabwe. Called the Great Dyke, it contains substantial deposits of chromium, asbestos, and nickel. Almost all of the world's chromium reserves are found in Africa. Chromium is used to harden alloys, to produce stainless steels, as an industrial catalyst, and to provide corrosion resistance.
Unique eruptions that occurred during the Cretaceous in southern and central Africa formed kimberlite pipes—vertical, near-cylindrical rock bodies caused by deep melting in the upper mantle. Kimberlite pipes are the main source of gem and industrial diamonds in Africa. Africa contains 40% of the world's diamond reserves, which occur in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and Zaire.
In South Africa uranium is to be found side-by-side with gold, thus decreasing costs of production. Uranium deposits are also found in Niger, Gabon, Zaire, and Namibia. South Africa alone contains half the world's gold reserves. Mineral deposits of gold also occur in Zimbabwe, Zaire, and Ghana. Alluvial gold (eroded from soils and rock strata by rivers) can be found in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, and Gabon.
As for other minerals, half of the world's cobalt is in Zaire and a continuation into Zimbabwe of Zairian cobalt-bearing geological formations gives the former country sizable reserves of cobalt as well. One quarter of the world's aluminum ore is found in a coastal belt of West Africa stretching 1,200 mi (1,920 km) from Guinea to Togo, with the largest reserves in Guinea.
Major coal deposits exist in southern Africa, North Africa, Zaire, and Nigeria. And North Africa is awash in petroleum reserves, particularly in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia. Nigeria is the biggest petroleum producer in West Africa, but Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo also contain oil reserves. There are also petroleum reserves in southern Africa, chiefly in Angola.
Most of Africa's iron reserves are in western Africa, with the most significant deposits in and around Liberia, Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, and Mauritania. In West Africa as well as in South Africa where iron deposits are also found, the ore is bound up in Precambrian rock strata.
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