Plane Conversations on Rwandair
He told me that Rwanda has the highest concentration of tin in the world, and that this tin is used in almost everything, including make-up. And the demand only keeps rising, with a ton selling at $20,750 as opposed to $12,000 just three years back. But the most fascinating resource were the Simandou hill ranges of Guinea, which are composed entirely of iron ore. But the Guinea government is unwilling to license mining, until they are built a railway from Simandou to Conakry. As I worried about the equatorial forest that covers Simandou, how the place will be stripped and tunnelled, he told me not to worry.
“Our company takes pictures beforehand. We restore a habitat to its original state. We are not like the Dutch. They abandoned this mine in Rwanda when the genocide broke out. Now that place is a disaster.”
He is going back to that Rwandan mine. It still has rich veins of tin that promise to deliver the highest recorded output for the next twenty years. Though, he would love the most to go back to Liberia. When, he was there, searching for iron ore, they would just find thick strips of gold intertwined with the ore, but they were unable to mine because they were still not licensed.
To him, China is the worst. They destroyed the steel industry in South Africa, by buying all the essential iron ore components from all over the world, and stockpiling, forcing South African steel companies to close down and lay off workers.
When I told him about Tullow exploring oil in Kenya, he was curious. But then he said Kenya should not be worried about oil, but water. The Third World War would be over water, he said. The world will fight over the Great Lakes of Africa. For water is finishing all over the world, with the levels in dams going lower each year. South Africa is even thinking about using the giant, underground aquifer that lies between Johannesburg, Pretoria and Northern Cape. Though, no cost-effective energy system has yet been developed to pull the water up.
“Oh look,” he said, finally. “Just one hour left before we land. I better nap.”
I was left wondering about a Third World War on water. Outside the window, the continent was asleep, dark, unknowable.