World Bank launches ‘Billion Dollar Map’

The World Bank has announced its plan to map Africa’s natural resources with the aim of delineating more clearly the continent’s undiscovered mineral wealth. 

Speaking at the Mining Indaba Conference, Tom Butler, Global Head of Mining at the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, said that the project, dubbed the Billion Dollar Map, “will unlock the true worth of Africa’s mineral endowment”.

The World Bank says its launch of the Billion Dollar Map project seeks to address this constraint and consolidate mineral geodata coverage across Africa. It will promote standardisation and accessibility of this information. 

For governments, having reliable geological information will guide priorities and aid decision-making. Better data will also incentivise investment in the region by making the job of private sector exploration teams more effective. 

“The potential investment that publicly available geo-data could mobilize for many countries in Africa would far exceed revenue they now receive in development assistance. Under sound, transparent and accountable management, this investment can lead to local job creation, along with revenues to government that translate into programs in health and education, among others, that help reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity,” the Bank says.

“The groundwork for the initiative has evolved over the past ten years, with the World Bank investing over $200 million in geological data information in Africa.”

“Coupled with in-country training and institutional support, and the work of exploration companies, this initiative will unlock the true worth of Africa’s mineral endowment,” said Tom Parker. 

Meanwhile, the Australian Mineral Industry Research Association (AMIRA), Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET) at The University of Western Australia (UWA), IM4DC and their partners have made considerable in-roads into capturing and publishing African geodata. 

The AMIRA-managed West Africa Exploration Initiative (WAXI) has been running for more than seven years and is about to go into its third phase. WAXI is a public-private collaboration between eight research institutions from five countries (including CET in WA), government geological surveys from nine West African countries, two Australian government agencies, and over 13 mining and exploration companies. Australian Aid (through DFAT) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) have provided financial support for the capacity-building and research components respectively.

WAXI has generated a step-change in the quality and quantity of geodata in West Africa, utilising the knowledge gained from more than 40 years of exploration in regions such as WA’s Goldfields, and adapting techniques and enhancing cooperation to bring West Africa’s geodata up to international standards within a much shorter timeframe. 

As a spin-off from WAXI and IM4DC capacity-building in GIS frameworks, IM4DC commissioned IM4DC OpenData (https://im4dc.org/resources/im4dc-opendata/) the first web-based open-access regional geodatabase for Africa. Such accessible and transparent information on potential mineral resources and geographic contexts support governments, communities and people to manage resources for their development objectives.

Data from both WAXI and IM4DC OpenData will provide valuable input to the Billion Dollar Map.