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AMN - Angola seeks revival led by diamonds – comment by Yolanda Torrisi

Yol headshot May 2011

As diamond mines age across the world, a renewed effort to move Angola’s minerals industry forward is holding promise in the southern African nation. Angola’s diamond sector is already the country’s second-largest source of export wealth after oil. But with only 40% of diamond resources used or explored, the remaining 60% is an opportunity in the making for producers.

Angola is home to 38 of the top-50 mineral resources used as inputs, including notable stand-out diamond, as well as prospective minerals copper and iron ore, manganese, chromium, gold, lead, zinc, phosphates, granite, marble, titanium, tungsten, uranium and volphamium.

The nation which celebrated its Peace Day just two weeks ago was an iron-ore exporter in the 1960s — a decade that intersected the 1961-1974 Angolan War of Independence and one that came before the 1975-2002 Angolan Civil War and current eras of greater political stability. Now that there has been a sustained period of peace in the nation, opportunity has returned.

Angola’s President João Lourenço has acknowledged past government policies held back both industry and the nation, saying last year “We recognise that the policies for this sector, established by us, do not best serve the interests of the country nor of the producers.”

Now spearheading change on behalf of nation and industry, Angola’s president of near-on two years hopes to see the country’s export markets diversified — 80% of the country’s government income is presently sourced from oil —and its diamond production levels expanded from 9.4 million carats or $US1.1 billion in 2017 to 14 million carats over the next four years.

It is certainly encouraging to see Angola setting ambitious plans that could put it on a path to its ultimate goal — to be Africa’s no 1 diamond producer. Africa’s diamond miners should consider themselves on notice. But for producers on the hunt for new projects, Angola’s ambitions may well present a welcome opportunity to build capacity.

Angolan national diamonds company Endiama is one agency charged with advancing the southern African nation’s minerals wealth and it has started with prospecting at the 30-year Luaxe kimberlite project. Endiama hopes investors will pitch in as goals firm up to double production at the project within five years. The company holds a portfolio of other projects open to private investors and partnerships, including kimberlite projects Camafuca-Camazambo, Chiri, Mulepe, Sangamina and Tchegi, and alluvial projects Cabula, Muanga, Muriege and Sanjungo.

Copper and iron ore also hold promise in Angola, a nation bordered by two notable copper-mining jurisdictions, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia. A prospective copperbelt extends into Angola, putting good stakes on the possibility of iron ore and copper discoveries. Perhaps Angola can enliven other minerals exports industries besides diamonds.

Opportunity, collaboration and openness is the theme going forward in Angola, presenting a welcome change to political conflict, border disputes and arguments over seaport access. One of the reform efforts People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola chairman President Lourenço hopes to ensure is improved transparency in the diamond sector.

In a territory where diamonds were traded at below market value transparency to well-connected individuals, online trading and trade through Antwerp World Diamond Centre is hoped to bring greater certainty to potential revenues, profits and shareholder returns for company operators.

Transparency and reform are certainly welcome changes to move forward Angola and its mining industry as miners, explorers and government target greater minerals wealth and the economic and social benefits they bring to the wider community.

- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent - Contact: yolanda@yolandatorrisi.com