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Mining and Minerals

The Commonwealth factor in mining

The Commonwealth has vast mineral wealth. Modern commercial mineral exploitation in most countries dates back to the beginnings of British colonial rule. Today, a number of countries are highly dependent on the sector.

The rise of China’s economy and its hunger for mineral resources has created a new market for minerals which had previously lost some significance and opened extra opportunities for foreign direct investment from international companies. China is the leading consumer of virtually all base and precious metals and including copper, lead, zinc, tin, nickel, aluminium and gold.

Three Commonwealth countries, Australia, Canada and South Africa have pre-eminence in the world of mining. The UK is also prominent in the world of mining as an international centre of coordination for mining operations, partly because of its capital markets which are a source of finance for many mining projects around the world. Most of the large international mining companies outside the US are headquartered in London.

Four countries in the Commonwealth are amongst the top ten producers of gold in the world: Australia (2nd in the world), South Africa (4), Canada (8) and Ghana (9). Five Commonwealth countries are amongst the top ten gem quality diamond producers Botswana (1), Canada (3), South Africa (6), Namibia (7) and Ghana (9). South Africa leads the world in platinum production and ranks second in the production of palladium. Australia is in the top three of the country list of producers of coal and the following base metals lead, zinc and nickel; and number five in the production of copper. Canada is a major producer of copper (8), lead (6), nickel (2), and aluminium (3), platinum (3) and palladium (3). Three of the largest mining companies in the world are all of Commonwealth origin: Rio Tinto (UK and Australia), BHP Billiton (Australia) and Anglo American (South Africa).

Data: 2008-10

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