Paul Stothart is vice president, economic affairs of the Mining Association of Canada. He is responsible for advancing the industry’s interests regarding federal tax, trade, investment, transport and energy issues.
In a recent column, I noted that China remains the prime driver of world mineral prices. In building a domestic infrastructure for 1.3 billion people, while expanding its role as the world’s factory, China simply cannot meet its burgeoning demand for copper, zinc, nickel, and other raw materials. In response to this growing gap, China now imports $100 billion worth of base metals annually, buying 25 per cent of the world’s supply today versus a 5 per cent share in the 1980s. As a specific example, China’s share of world consumption of zinc has tripled from 10 to 28 per cent in a mere decade, while the US share has fallen from 16 to 10 per cent.
This dramatic growth in raw material demand is one of the central factors leading to a second, equally significant development; namely that China is becoming an important catalyst to the growth of Africa—a continent that offers untapped raw material supply and market demand potential. In decades past, few observers of global economic development would have envisioned the emergence of such a linkage. Few thought beyond the traditional model, where aid flows from the west would supposedly some day pull Africa to a more advanced state of development.