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Africa mining: Will mineral-rich countries start a cartel like OPEC?

As countries such as China grow increasingly dependent on minerals such as copper and cobalt, Africa mining firms are wondering how far the continent's leaders will go to extract better terms. Some are now talking about a cartel like OPEC.

Miners form a human chain while digging an open-pit mine near Kobu, in northeastern Congo.

Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters/File

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African leaders are pushing for tougher terms on mining concessions after 25 years of structural adjustment – when countries cut red tape and offered generous tax holidays to foreign prospectors.

The new dynamic was on display at a recent mining conference in Senegal. The chief executive officer of a multinational Africa mining firm was speaking, but Senegal's president didn't appear to be listening.

Across the hall from President Abdoulaye Wade sat 500 delegates from foreign mining firms. They had come in March to see which new holes were worth digging in this continent whose riches are in demand from booming economies like China's.

When the CEO's presentation ended, Mr. Wade treated his visitors to a rhyme: "I never said, enrichissez-vous." [Enrich yourselves]. "I said enrichissons-nous." (Let's enrich one another.)

A cheer rose up from the African delegates.

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