Geodynamics of mineral resources in West Africa
Mineral resources account for more than 50% of exports from the 19 West African countries involved in the Agremoa programme. They play a crucial role in the region’s development. The IRD and its partners are working to improve understanding of the geological structure and geodynamics of the West African shield in order to help countries with mineral wealth to manage these non-renewable resources sustainably. A further aim is to develop competency hubs for geoscience in these countries.
The West African shield, which constitutes the bedrock across large parts of West Africa, is an ancient rock formation dating from the Archaean era 2.5 billion years ago. Its rocks contain many precious minerals including gold and diamonds. The African Union recommends “expanding geoscience research to enhance the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the African continent” and cannot but welcome the Agremoa programme. Involving the IRD, BRGM and the universities of
Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Witwatersrand in South Africa, the programme is backed by the AMIRA mining consortium, several other international mining companies and the French government. It combines research, development and training for sustainable management of mineral resources in the West African shield.
The research includes a study of the geodynamic evolution of the shield and investigation of its little-known deep layers in order to guide future prospecting for metals and minerals. Young African researchers are involved in the work and an online undergraduate course will be made available to all on the Internet. A major challenge for the programme is to acquire geological, geophysical and pedological data in the fi eld and combine these with existing data, much of which is scattered around different countries. All the data are being incorporated in a geographical information system that at present contains 130 GB of geological and geographical data on West Africa and is available to the partners.
The information gathered and the very high resolution thermodynamic modelling investigations are already revolutionising the way the West African shield’s geodynamic and thermal evolution is understood. This will greatly improve understanding of the geological processes at work at the time the mineral resources were laid down. And that in turn is an undeniable advantage for managing these non-renewable resources in future.