ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST - Mining companies have invested at least $5 billion toward gold exploration in West Africa in the last decade but significant reserves are under-exploited, mineral industry experts said on Tuesday.
Delegates at the Ecomof mining and petroleum forum in this commercial capital were told that more must be done to attract international investors to develop mining potential.
"Throughout West Africa, there are interesting minerals, gold, iron, nickel, manganese, among others," said Kadjo Kouame, managing director of Sodemi, the Ivory Coast mining development company.
Ivory Coast and Ghana are among the world's top cocoa producers but are now seeking to diversify their economies by mining precious metals and newly discovered reserves of oil.
"But there is a real job to do to attract investors and diversify projects too focused on gold," Kouame added.
Gold is currently attracting the most investment, according to figures shared at the forum, with West Africa now the world's fourth-largest gold region.
Ghana is Africa's second-largest gold producer after South Africa.
Some 8 million ounces of gold were mined in West Africa in 2016, according to figures from the World Trade Council supplied by Endeavour Mining.
Between 2006 and 2019, new gold deposits of 79 million ounces were discovered in West Africa, the highest in the world. A third was located in Burkina Faso, followed by Ghana, Mali and Ivory Coast, the forum was told.