Senegal wants mining industry to drive economy

Despite holding a wealth of unexploited mineral deposits, Senegal isn't a highly coveted destination for foreign mining companies. But the President of the small west African country is looking to change that.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Macky Sall said he's eager to bring more mining investment into the country; in fact, mining will be one of the country's "pillars of development."

Sall wants the resource industry to help Senegal's economy to expand by an average rate of 7% for a decade.

“We’re committed to putting all the conditions in place to attract companies, have an adequate working environment, a renewed mining code,” the President said as reported by Bloomgerg.

Economic growth has hovered around the 4% mark for more than a decade, reaching 4.6% last year.

“Growth of 5 percent is very good, but our ambition is much larger,” Sall said.

The President isn't turning to mining by whim:: He's a geological engineer by trade, has worked in the petroleum industry, and served several terms as the country's Minister of Mines, Energy and Hyrdaulics.

Senegal, one of the most stable African countries according to the World Bank, is a major exporter of phosphate but it's also looking to develop its iron ore, gold and oil industries. These ambitions have so far not translated into economic progress: Between 2002 and 2011, mining and quarrying accounted for less than 1.5% of the country's GDP, according to the African Development Bank Group.

For now, the country has only one large-scale gold mine, the Sabodala deposit owned by Canada's Teranga Gold. Meanwhile, Randgold Resources is in the feasibility stage of its Massawa project.

The government is currently looking for a partner to help develop the Faleme iron ore mine which has estimated reserves of about 750 million tonnes. Sengeal kicked ArcelorMittal out of the project in 2007 because the European company suspended work due to the global economic crisis.

Maplecroft – a global risk analytics firm – recently identified Senegal as one of the most improved countries over the past five years in terms of its business environment.