For many many decades mining has long formed a vital part of the Malian economy. When modern commercial gold mining started in 1984, it accounted for only 1.5% of Mali’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 1991, post a commercial mining code reflecting internationally accepted standards was enforced according to the International Development Association, commercial gold production proliferated from 4 metric tonnes that year to 48 metric tonnes in 2008.
Mali has abundant mineral wealth. Gold has become Mali’s second-largest export after cotton and has emerged as a leading export for the African country since 1999. Mali is West Africa’s second largest gold producer with an estimated 2009 output of 1.6 million ounces, or 49 tonnes, and total gold wealth is estimated at 350 tonnes.
Several companies in Mali are currently carrying out uranium exploration in the Falea and Gao regions, where the uranium potential is estimated to be 5,200 tonnes. Furthermore, Mali has the potential to develop diamond explorations. In the Kayes administrative region, also known as “Mining region 1”, 30 kimberlitic pipes have been discovered of which eight show traces of diamonds. Diamonds have also been picked up in the Sikasso administrative region, in southern Mali.
More than 1.3 million tonnes of potential iron ore reserves has been detected in the areas of Djidian-Kenieba, Diamou, and Bale. Bauxite reserves are estimated to be 1.2 million tonnes and the potential for other mineral resources in Mali includes 42.2 million tonnes of calcareous rock deposits; nearly 46 million tonnes of copper reserves; 1.7 million tonnes of lead and zinc with traces in western and northern Mali; an estimated potential of 4 million lithium reserves; 53 million tonnes of rock salt; 65 million tonnes of diatomite potential; and an estimated 870 million of bitumen schist.