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Defensive Investments Are Surging. Is Africa Still The Hotspot For Gold?

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For the last couple of years, the global economy has received multiple setbacks, and that shows no sign of changing. Just as the recovery from the pandemic was underway, the invasion of Ukraine upset the international markets and caused energy and food prices to spike.

According to the World Bank, global growth is expected to drop from 5.7% in 2021 to 2.9% in 2022. It is not likely to recover until 2024. The IMF chief has said the international economic outlook had “darkened significantly” since April and couldn’t rule out a global recession next year.

Global inflation is now hitting levels not seen in decades, and this has led to rising interest rates. Pew research analyzed data from 44 advanced economies and found prices had increased in nearly all of them. For example, in the first quarter of 2022, 37 of the 44 experienced double the inflation rates of Q1 2020; in 16 countries, it was quadruple.

Predictably the stock market has fared poorly, with some analysts saying the first half of 2022 has been the worst for stocks for over 50 years. Indexes and exchanges, such as the S&P 500, the FTSE 250, and Asia’s MSCI, are down by 20% or more.

In times such as these, people’s investments turn defensive and historically, that has always meant gold.

Gold is still a haven, but the big producers have changed

Since 2019, gold prices have risen over a third from an average closing price of $1393 to $1877 this year . While this is expected given global events, some new patterns have emerged.

Gold is priced in USD, so they typically have an inverse relationship, with one falling as the other rises. However, increased interest rates have recently seen the dollar strengthen – yet gold has continued to trade above $1800. This has led to experts saying gold’s floor price has increased from $1200 to between $1500 and $1600.    

This is excellent news for gold producers, but it begs the question – which regions are seeing the benefit of these new levels?

For almost the entire 20 th  century, South Africa produced more gold than anyone else, peaking at 1000 tonnes in 1970 . It was an unarguable hotspot for the precious metal. However, its peak output slowly declined, and China took the crown in 2008. South Africa is still a significant player but has dropped to the tenth largest producer in the world.

However, the picture is changing as new global gold regions expand. Africa is one such continent, with countries such as Tanzania, DRC, Sudan and Zimbabwe, as well as selective West African gold mining and resource companies, rapidly growing their gold resource base.

A great example is Goldrange Resources, an acquisition-driven private resource company led by an incredibly experienced team focused on Africa. Its CEO, Helen Ruth Pein, has spent over thirty years as an economic geologist on the continent and knows the potential.

“The world continues to face several ongoing problems, resulting in the increased price of gold. Although gold’s promising surge earlier this year has somewhat leveled out due to economies weakening, we are advised that this may only impact on the big breakout in gold being pushed out further for a couple of months.

“However, if you take a longer-term view and look at longer timescales, its value has always risen. We founded Goldrange in early 2020, and it wasn’t due to prices. It was mainly due to the long-term view of the shiny precious metal and the vast potential in Africa right now. Companies like ours want to operate at this next significant hotspot – Africa,” Pein says.

West Africa is booming, but it isn’t the only region taking off

Ghana in West Africa is now the sixth-largest gold-producing country in the world, according to the World Gold Council. Other countries in the region, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, are mining around 100 tonnes each, with others, like the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), catching up fast. West Africa already produces 12.5% of total world production and continues to grow operations. Tanzania alone produces 1.3% of the total global gold production. Côte d’Ivoire

Pein says, “West Africa is attracting a lot of attention. Côte d’Ivoire is West Africa’s main economic and foreign investment franco hub. The continued intent by the Government to support the mineral sector as a key contributor to the economy has significantly assisted in growing all mining activity. This is also due to the stable Ivorian mining-friendly regime and the country’s precious metal endowment within the Birimian Greenstone Belt. This belt runs through a number of countries in West Africa and can be attributed to the numerous rich gold deposits and mines.”

Ghana, Africa’s largest gold producer, has only 16% of this geological belt, but produces roughly 130 tonnes of gold annually. Côte d’Ivoire, which contains a third of this belt, currently produces 40 tonnes of gold per annum, further indicating the country’s sizeable untapped gold potential.

“Goldrange has secured three good projects. Two are advanced brownfield projects situated in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, and one is an early stage East African project,  historically the site of Tanzania’s largest artisanal gold rush in 1997.”

Investor sentiment in Tanzania is fast recovering after a difficult period under the late President Magufuli, where he overhauled the mining laws. Last year, Tanzania formed a new government led by President Suluhu, who immediately commenced positive reforms to the mining sector.

Consequently, there has been a flood of investment and exploration. This is seen by the number of major players who have re-entered the mineral race in Tanzania. Mining giant BHP’s investment of USD $50M into the Kabanga Nickel project in January 2022 saw its first investment back into Africa since its exit in 2015. Pein says, “Tanzania is attracting a lot of new interest and investment attention. The number of gold projects and mines restarting in Tanzania is encouraging, and we are excited to be part of this.”

For almost a century South Africa was seen as a global hotspot for gold. This has shifted, and the hotspots now include corridors across the Sub-Saharan African continent. West Africa is home to three of the five top gold-producing countries in Africa. Ghana took the lead from South Africa in 2019 after mining more than 142 tonnes of the precious metal.  Mali is in 3 rd  position and in 2020 Tanzanian gold mines took position as the 4 th  largest gold producer in Africa. Burkina Faso, also in West Africa, has entered the fray in 5 th  position.

Similarly, five of the six largest gold mines in Africa (2021) are situated in West Africa and Tanzania. With Africa’s gold mining industry booming,   it is not surprising companies like Goldrange have found success.

Pein adds, “The quantum of gold extracted across Africa is growing rapidly, and we are enthused to be part of this venture.”