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Without the African mineral endowment, there is no chance of an energy transition taking place.

“The fate of humanity rests on the African continent,” Ivanhoe executive co-chairperson Robert Friedland emphasised at the London Indaba on Monday. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

“The way mining is financed now, we’re looking at very limited parts of the earth’s crust where we can responsibly mine,” Friedland said during his presentation covered by Mining Weekly.

A certain suite of a limited number of metals to clean up the world environment are needed and Africa holds the key to a greening future.

“Africa is blessed with the greatest mineral endowment on the planet and it hasn’t even begun to be scratched – and mining as an enterprise has to be completely, utterly, and totally reinvented. What we know as the mining industry has to be thrown out,” he said.

Africa would, he said, lead the world in the mining industry by a vast margin, with the world’s richest copper endowment being the Katanga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which also hosts 78% of the world’s cobalt production.

“We have a society where people don’t know where things come from anymore and when you really have a sober understanding, there’s no chance of us getting to where we want to go without the young people of the African continent – and it’s amazing that this is not understood,” he said.

While there is enough lithium on the planet ­– with just one hard rock lithium deposit in the Congo being enough to supply total global demand – when it comes to the generation of electrical energy and its transmission and end use, engineering one’s way around copper is very difficult.

“Gold and silver conduct electricity better than copper, but they’re just too expensive for the purpose, and there just isn’t enough of it, and by far the largest copper producer in the world was always the Congo, not Chile,” he said.

Eventually the large low-grade copper porphyry’s in Chile supplanted the war-troubled Congo’s supply, which had been the largest copper country until the 1960s.

Chile’s copper grades have since fallen from already low levels and the volume of water and energy per rock ground is skyrocketing with solar not a continuous energy answer.

Mining copper in Chile thus tends to increase the environmental problem the world is trying to solve, putting the future into Africa’s hands.