THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has extended a new moratorium on the export ban of cobalt, tin, tungsten and tantalum concentrates.
‘After a long debate, the Minister of Mining, Professor Willy Kitobo Samsoni, has decided to grant an indefinite waiver for cobalt hydroxides and carbonates, the tin concentrates of Alphamin, and concentrates of 3Ts [tin, tungsten, and tantalum],’ the ministry said in a statement. Alphamin is a tin producer in the North Kivu Province.
This waiver comes as the previous 6-month moratorium extension, signed on February 22 2020, expired. In 2013, the DRC banned the export of copper and cobalt concentrates to entice companies to process and refine ore locally. The country is the world’s leading cobalt producer and Africa’s leading copper producer. However, operators have struggled to comply, citing the country’s power deficit as one of the main barriers to developing a local processing industry. This has resulted in successive waivers being issued for the ban over the years.
While transformation capacity remains limited, some companies are seeing the value of investing in local smelting processes. Last January, China Nonferrous Mining Company (CNMC) built the country’s first large-scale smelter, capable of processing 400,000 tons of copper concentrate and producing 120,000 tons of copper blister every year.
Nevertheless, CNMC’s factory, the Lualaba Copper Smelter (LCS), cannot accommodate Congo’s full production, which stood at 765,000 tons for the first half of 2020, up 13.4 percent from the previous year. The ministry said that companies whose production is not compatible with LCS specifications must develop their own local smelting capacity ‘rapidly.’
This announcement is in line with the DRC government’s will to expand local transformation, thus increasing local capacity and providing more jobs for its people. The mining sector is historically the backbone of the DRC’s economy and is set to bolster socio-economic development, provided companies commit to local value generation.
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