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DR Congo Copper Production Rises Despite Electricity Constraints

The Democratic Republic of Congo may boost copper exports to about 750,000 metric tons this year even as producers are held back by power constraints, Moise Katumbi, governor of mineral-rich Katanga province, said.

“Today we’re exporting more or less 750,000 tons of copper cathode,” Katumbi told the iPad mining and infrastructure conference in Lubumbashi, the provincial capital. “If it weren’t for the energy problems, we could already reach a million tons.”

Congo, the world’s eighth-largest copper producer, exported more than 600,000 tons of the metal last year, mostly from Katanga, which has an energy deficit of more than 300 megawatts, according to the the government.

“We haven’t invested very well in energy and now we’re seeing the results,” Katumbi said.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., based in Phoenix, Arizona; Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Xstrata Plc and London-based Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. were Congo’s largest copper producers in 2012, according to the government.

A $12-billion plan to build the 4,800 megawatt Inga 3 hydropower project will only produce electricity by 2020 at the earliest, while a proposal by state-miner Gecamines to build a coal plant capable of generating 500 megawatts has languished while awaiting a feasibility study, Katumbi said.

“We have to be very careful because we can’t give hope to people before we even have a feasibility study,” he said.

Planned changes to the country’s 2002 mining rules by the government may discourage further investment, and bureaucratic hurdles are deterring businesses, Katumbi said.

“To have a strong economy, we need security for investors and security for their investments,” he said. “What we especially deplore is the harassment by the tax agencies.”

In April, Congo’s chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative reported that one of the country’s tax agencies failed to account for $88 million in payments by mining companies that should have been paid to the Treasury.

The group suspended the country’s membership for a year and threatened to delist Congo unless it improves reporting of mining and oil revenue.

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