The global mining industry drives more than 45% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), either on a direct basis or through the use of products that facilitate other industries, says AngloGold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani.
Cutifani, who addressed this week’s Mining for Change conference, calculates that mining product revenue contributes 11.5% to global GDP; mining service industries a further 21% to 23% and fertilisers for agriculture, fuel for transport and materials for construction then take mining’s combined direct and indirect contribution beyond 45%.
The world would need to dedicate twice the amount of land to agricultural activities, which currently already occupy 40% of the earth’s surface, were it not for mining’s contribution to agricultural productivity.
Yet considerably less than 1% of the earth’s surface is dedicated to mining, which consumes less than 1% of the world’s water – and mined products also help to purify much of that water.
Furthermore, mining emits less than 3% of the world’s carbon gases.
“Mining’s the most important industrial activity in the world today and has one of the smallest environmental impact across the globe, which many people don’t appreciate.
“Instead of calling us the extractive industry I would like us to become known as the development industry,” Cutifani says, pointing out that 40% of the capital that AngloGold Ashanti is putting in place right now to develop its new Mongbwalu gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo is dedicated to infrastructure.
In addition to creating employment opportunities for the near-mine Mongbwalu community, the company is putting in place transportation, commercial and energy infrastructure that will enable local farmers to produce more and also to start transporting it to market.
“If we can get it right and benefit 80% of the people in that community instead of only maybe 3% who are given jobs, then the conversation around the mining industry will change and when people hear the word mining, they will think about development, jobs and social infrastructure. That’s the vision we have for our mining industry,” he adds.
By coordinating the involvements of developmental finance institutions, governments and mines, a strategy can be adopted for Africa that will be no different to the way pioneering industries helped to open up North America, South America, Europe and Russia.
Further, as the now-returned Chamber of Mines of South Africa senior executive Roger Baxter has often pointed out, the modern world would not have smart phones, wind turbines, toothpaste without mined minerals.
While minerals like oil, gas, coal and uranium energise the modern world, voguish gadgets are unable to function without copper, silver, gold, palladium, platinum, ceramics, titanium dioxide and lesser-known tongue-twisters like indium tin oxide.
The average car contains a ton of iron and steel, 100 kg of aluminium and 19 kg of copper and the more environment friendly hybrid vehicle requires double the copper, roughly 34 kg.
A 2 MW wind turbine contains some 300 t of steel, 5 t of copper, 3 t of aluminium and requires the casting of about 1 200 t of concrete, the cement for which requires limestone that is mined and stone that is quarried.
Replacing a single 3 000 MW coal-fired power station – which is half the size of South Africa’s many six-pack stations –15 000 MW of wind turbine capacity needs to be provided, which would require the equivalent a 2 MW wind turbine being sited every 240 m between Durban and Cape Town.
The modern compact energy-efficient fluorescent light bulb needs bauxite, lead, copper, limestone, nickel and phosphorous; toothpaste contains silica, limestone, aluminium, phosphate, fluoride and titanium; and women’s make-up mica and talc.
The minerals in greatest demand globally are coal, copper and iron-ore.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter