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Russian Geological Exploration in Africa: Looking to the Past and to the Future

24 October 2019
Российская геология в Африке: наследие и взгляд в будущее


Soviet and Russian experts made a significant contribution to Africa’s development

«Soviet geologists carried out enormous work in the 1960s. More than 100,000 employees were involved in making this continent more accessible, open, and understandable from a geological standpoint, and all African countries remember and greatly appreciate this,» Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dmitry Kobylkin said.

«Russia is a good cook, which allows us to utilize the experience we have accumulated. Russia has made a significant contribution to the development of science and education in Africa,» said Gabriel Thokuj Deng Amaykway, Minister of Mining of the Republic of South Sudan.

«Both of our former ministers studied in the Soviet Union and both said that the Soviet Union had the best education [...] And the most interesting thing is that now the information that has been obtained since Soviet times is being used for research,» said Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Africa’s natural wealth is of global importance

«I think we are now entering a brand-new era, particularly for the minerals that we mine in our region, in Rwanda. This is the so-called technological era. You all know about tantalum and lithium. The production of batteries and accumulators could play a very important role, especially in our era. Every country that wants to be part of this technological revolution must have access to such minerals, and Rwanda can become one of the main suppliers,» said Francis Gatare, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board.

The development of Africa’s resources should be for the good of its people

«This continent is changing drastically. Of course, social problems and problems related to improving people’s prosperity are at the forefront, and no one in Africa wants just any company to come in and simply mine a particular raw material in order to export it from the continent and leave behind conditional taxes,» Kobylkin said.


Lack of sufficient data about resources

«The state of geological exploration in Africa is quite diverse: there are countries where the degree of geological exploration is 60%, while there are others with only 10%. So the issue of the degree of geological exploration and prospects for African countries is very important,» said Sergey Gorkov, General Director and Chairman of the Management Board of Rosgeologia.

«We have great potential, but it remains unexplored. What has happened in the past? We have always been at a disadvantage because we did not own the data or information. Investors would generally come in and tell us about the quantity and quality of our natural resources and interacted with us from a position of strength. We did not know the situation in our own country,» said Foday Rado Yokie, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Sierra Leone.


Develop comprehensive cooperation

«Like the entire African continent, we need to invest in scaling our knowledge and expertise, and Russia, of course, can provide us with these opportunities by sending scientists to work in Africa. Many Rwandan scientists were also trained in Russia, incidentally,» Gatare said.

«This year, our geological services signed a memorandum to create continuity in the work that has been done. In addition, we are working with other geological institutes and organizations. We are open to cooperation with anyone who is involved in this field and invests in this work,» said Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, Minister of Mineral Resources and Petroleum of the Republic of Angola.

«Our investment climate is very friendly towards you, and we are very serious about working together. We are ready to start investing, if not yesterday, then at least today,» Amaykway said.

Stimulate geological exploration

«We need to create the right environment so that development is possible. For example, at the level of the legislative framework, we have guaranteed rights that give companies, especially young companies, greater chances to recoup their investments. If deposits are discovered, they can then be transferred to larger companies,» Azevedo said.

«We want to determine our potential: the quality and quantity of our natural resources. We are talking about new studies,» Yokie said.

Establish your own databases

«Our strength is information. Whoever owns information becomes an important person [...] I have discussed this with my African colleagues and ministers. We need to create a single data centre for all of Africa, and seismic research will be much easier and cheaper. We will not have to forward our information to London or Houston for processing. Everything will remain in Africa,» Lima said.

«Digitalization is the trend of the times. It’s what we need to work on,» Gorkov said.