Canada – Africa: Defrosting a frigid relation?

Canada – Africa: Defrosting a frigid relation?

African Barrick Gold also owns Tanzania’s deepest mine, Buzwagi. Production at Buzwagi, which is expected to have a mine life of five years, came to 181,984 ounces last year. Its proven and probable reserves were 1.1m oz by the end of 2013. It is Tanzania’s second biggest mining operation and the biggest single open pit mine in the country.

African Barrick Gold also owns North Mara – an open pit mine in the Mara region of Tanzania. North Mara’s produced 256,732 ounces in 2013, and the open pit mine is estimated to have a life of 10 years. Its proven and probable reserves were 2.2m oz by the end of last year. The company is listed on both the London and the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

Massive Canadian presence

Another Canadian mining firm operating in Africa is Allana Potash Corp, which has four potash concessions in northeastern Ethiopia, at the Danakil Depression. Allana’s Danakhil Potash Project spans around 312 square kilometre. There are many other examples of big Canadian mining firms operating in Africa. Endeavour Mining Corp operates the Agbaou gold mine in Côte d’Ivoire, the Tabakoto gold mine in Mali, the Nzema gold mine in Mali and the Youga gold mine in Burkina Faso.

First Quantum Minerals has operated the Kansanshi mine in Zambia and the Guelb Moghrein mine in Mauritania. It also has three further development projects in the pipeline in Zambia, including the launch of a copper smelter. Nevsun Resources, Platinum Group Metals and Volta Resources are all other big mining companies operating in Africa. Joining them are hundreds of junior mining firms, headquartered in either Vancouver or Toronto.

Canada is only second to South Africa in terms of its total mining assets and investments in Africa, accounting for more than 35% of total assets and investments in the region, according to Natural Resources Canada. Moreover, most of South Africa’s mining activities are concentrated in its own country, meaning that Canada is the overall leader in terms of assets and investments on the continent excluding South Africa.

According to Natural Resources Canada, 155 Canadian mining companies were active in 39 African countries in 2011, compared to presence in 24 African countries in 2001 and 35 in 2007. Its key mining partners, in order of importance are: Zambia, Mauritania, South Africa, Madagascar, DRC, Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, and Eritrea. Combined assets came to over $30.8bn in 2011, compared with $26.5bn the year before.

Canadian firms have a particularly strong presence in East Africa – with $12.7bn worth of commitments in 2011. The North American country had $9.9bn worth of investments in the same year in southern Africa, Central Africa and $36.7m in North America.

Canada’s relationship with Africa in terms of aid and development has been more mixed. Canada made cutbacks to its aid to the continent in the 1990s due to tightened government budgets. Under the government of Prime Minister Paul Martin from 2003 to 2006, however, aid to the continent grew, making Cananda the third-most-important foreign donor to Africa. Under the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who took office in 2006, however, Canada’s development activity in Africa has dramatically declined, especially following Canada’s decision to suspend all of its aid to Africa in 2010.

Some observers have also criticised Canada’s lack of appetite for strengthening its diplomatic relations with African countries and its poor involvement in peacekeeping activities in the region. Canada has contributed little to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa’s key conflict zones. In October last year, Canada also dismantled its Sudan Task Force, which had been coordinating Canada’s peacekeeping efforts in the country.

Moreover, Canada has barely more than a dozen diplomatic missions in Africa’s 54 countries.

Even in South Africa, where Canada has heavy involvement in the mining industry, Canada’s lack of diplomatic efforts – for example, failing to send diplomats to the ANC’s 100th anniversary celebrations – the now-deceased Nelson Mandela’s party has been drawing fire.


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Written by Sherelle Jacobs

Sherelle Jacobs is a British freelance journalist covering sub-Saharan African business and development news. In 2013, she won 'Best Newcomer' at the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards. She has written for the Economist, BBC, Financial Times, Guardian, Independent, African Business and African Banker. She speak French, Arabic, Russian and German.

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