Although Mauritania is now dreaming aloud of natural gas extraction and green hydrogen production projects that are attracting major international investors and the billions of dollars they could generate, it is nevertheless the mining industry that is still the main spearhead of the Mauritanian economy.
And it is the industry that kept the country’s economy going during the long months of the Covid-19 crisis.
Dominated by gold, iron (of which Mauritania is the second largest African producer) and copper, the mining sector represented 24% of the country’s GDP and 60% of exports in 2020, according to figures from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
According to data from the French Treasury, iron ore was the country’s leading export item in 2021, accounting for €1.5bn, ahead of fishery products (€586m), copper (€217m) and gold (€273m), with the Chinese market as the main buyer (59%).
We will surely have to add uranium, which is expected to meet the ever-increasing demand for global nuclear energy. An Australian mining company, Aura Energy, entered into negotiations in September with the Mauritanian authorities to obtain an operating licence for its Tiris site, which should require $75m in investments and offer 12.4m pounds of uranium over 15 years.