SUSTAINABILITY OF STRATEGIC MINERALS [PGM’s, chromite, manganese and others] IN SOUTHERN AFRICA AND POTENTIAL CONFLICTS AND PARTNERSHIPS – by Dr. Stephen Burgess (2010)

Dr. Stephen F. Burgess is Associate Professor, Department of International Security, U.S. Air War College. His three books are South Africa’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (with Helen Purkitt), Smallholders and Political Voice in Zimbabwe, and The United Nations under Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 1992-97. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on African security issues.

Dr. Burgess helped to lead in the organization and execution of the Air Force Africa Command Symposium held at Air University. Since 1999, Dr. Burgess has taught courses on international security, peace and stability operations, and African regional and cultural studies. He is also an Associate Director of the U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center. Dr. Burgess holds a Ph.D. from Michigan State University and has been a faculty member at Vanderbilt University, the University of Zambia, the University of Zimbabwe, and Hofstra University.

The principal sustainability challenge in Southern Africa for the United States and its allies is uncertain access to strategic minerals, particularly platinum group metals (PGMs), chromium and manganese; and rare earth minerals, cobalt and uranium. The causes of this challenge are increasing global demand and supply shortages caused by inadequate infrastructure, politicization of the mining industry, and China‟s aggressive, monopolistic behavior in pursuit of minerals.

The challenge is most acute in the five Southern African countries of South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Environmental sustainability of the mining industry is another concern. The purpose of this paper is to provide scope to the problem and recommend steps the United States can take in order to ensure continued access.

Strategic Minerals in Southern Africa

Southern Africa contains strategic minerals, which the United States and its allies require for industrial purposes and that militaries need for the production and sustainment of weapons systems. For more than four decades, the supply of minerals has been a concern for the United States, and it will continue to be so. The principal sustainability challenge in Southern Africa for the United States and its allies is uncertain access to strategic minerals, especially platinum group metals (PGMs), chromium and manganese, as well as rare earth minerals, cobalt and uranium.

The causes of this challenge are increasing global demand and supply shortages caused by inadequate infrastructure, politicization of the mining industry, and China‟s aggressive and sometimes monopolistic behavior in pursuit of minerals. The challenge is most acute in two Southern African countries – South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) –
and also growing in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Environmental sustainability of the mining industry is also a concern; for example, acid mine water in South Africa poses a threat to platinum group metals (PGMs) mining, which is of considerable importance to the United States.

The purpose here is to provide scope to and analysis of the problem of the sustain-ability of scarce mineral resources and recommend what the United States can do to ensure continued access. This report provides insight into the sustainability of mineral resources that come from Southern Africa and that are of strategic importance to the United States and its allies.
It analyzes the competition as well as the potential for conflict over resources. Of particular concern is possible future conflict between the United States, which needs strategic minerals for national defense and other purposes, and China, which needs an increasing amount of resources to fuel its accelerating industrialization.

There is a rising scramble for and struggle over resources in Africa, especially in petroleum and mining economies. In particular, China and Chinese companies have increased their presence throughout Africa and have often engaged in practices that tend to exclude Western companies from access to mineral resources. Exclusionary practices have been known to cause
threats to sustainability of the flow over resources. This rising struggle over resources comes at a time in which the United States is becoming increasingly concerned about access to and sustainability of strategic natural resources. In particular, the U.S. government is concerned about access to “defense critical resources”.

At issue is how the United States and its allies can guarantee access to and help sustain these resources until viable substitutes or new technologies make them less critical. This requires increased levels of engagement with the African countries concerned, using all the instruments of American power and working with American and Western mining companies, as well as engagement with China and Chinese companies. In the future, a “worst-case” scenario might see the United States having to use coercive diplomacy in the not too-distant future (perhaps in 10-20 years) in order to regain access to vital resources. The onset of “resource wars” has been predicted by a number of scholars and experts. Given the rising level
of Chinese demand for resources, the probability of conflict is likely to rise.

STRUGGLE OVER RESOURCES AND POSSIBLE CONFLICT

The new scramble for African mineral resources (and petroleum) is most similar to the nineteenth century European scramble for African minerals and land that contributed to interstate conflict, especially the First World War. European powers sought resources for continuing rapid industrialization, and now China and India need increasing supplies of mineral resources for the same purpose and are competing with the United States and the West and may come into conflict.

In contrast, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union (and Warsaw Pact) had all the resources it needed to sustain industrialization and became involved in Africa in a competition for alliances against the United States and France.

For the rest of this essay, please go to the following website: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA535875

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