Congo’s Copper, Cobalt Mining Province in Coronavirus Lockdown

- March 23rd, 2020

The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s top copper-producing country and the world’s top cobalt producer.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has set a two day lockdown on copper- and cobalt-mining province Haut-Katanga and has closed the public markets of neighboring Lualaba province.

The measures come after two COVID-19 cases were confirmed on a flight, prompting the governor of Haut-Katanga province, Jacques Kyabula, to issue the lockdown order late on Sunday (March 22). He added that the boundaries of the southeastern province will also be closed.

“No activity will be tolerated in Haut-Katanga during this 48-hour period,” Kyabula said. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the DRC now stands at 30, including two deaths.

 

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The DRC is Africa’s top copper producer and the world’s fourth largest, with output reaching 1.3 million tonnes in 2019.

Robert Friedland-led Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN,OTCQX:IVPAF) operates the Kipushi zinc project in Haut-Katanga and the Kamoa-Kakula copper project in Lualaba, a joint venture in which China’s Zijin Mining (OTC Pink:ZIJMF,HKEX:2899) owns a majority stake.

MMG (ASX:MMG,HKEX:1208) operates the Kinsevere copper mine in Haut Katanga, which produced 68,000 tonnes of copper cathode in 2019, and privately owned Chemaf has confirmed the shutdown of its mines in the area — Etoile, one of the largest cobalt mines in the world, and Mufunta. The company also has other two projects, Luisha and Mutoshi.

Indigo Ellis, head of Africa research at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told Reuters she expects the lockdown to weigh heavily on copper output.

“The greatest risk to copper output from DRC is the potential for smelter or logistics-related bottlenecks, preventing mines from shipping concentrates,” Ellis said.

The DRC also produces almost 60 percent of the world’s cobalt, and the two provinces experiencing disruptions account for nearly all of the country’s output.

Lualaba province, which has not yet imposed a lockdown for mining companies, is home of top cobalt producer Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) Kamoto Copper Company. Reuters reported on Monday that the company has repatriated 26 foreign workers in response to the pandemic.

China Molybdenum’s (OTC Pink:CMCLF,HKEX:3993) Tenke Fungurume mine is also located in Lualaba province, as is Eurasian Resources Group’s Metalkol Roan Tailings Reclamation copper-cobalt project.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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