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Congo Copper Shipments Halted by Botswana Over Ebola Fear

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Botswana barred entry by anyone traveling from the Democratic Republic of Congo to prevent an Ebola outbreak in that country from spreading, blocking shipments of copper from Africa’s biggest producer of the metal.

Botswana’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship instructed its personnel to prohibit travelers from entering the country in an Aug. 25 directive obtained today. Hakuna Matata Sarl, Congo’s biggest hauler of copper and cobalt produced by companies including Freeport McMoRan Inc. and Jinchuan Group, said at least 20 of its trucks had been halted at Kazungula on Botswana’s border with Zambia.

“All trucks entering from the Democratic Republic of Congo are being denied entry into Botswana,” Hakuna Matata General Manager Frederic Gilson said today in a phone interview from Ndola in northern Zambia. “We are busy diverting all our trucks to Zimbabwe through Livingstone. Zimbabwe is still open.”

Congo was the world’s sixth-largest producer of copper last year, according to U.K.-based commodity-research company CRU Group, and the largest producer of cobalt, a mineral used in rechargeable batteries. Most of Congo’s copper is transported about 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) by road from Katanga province to South Africa’s port city of Durban, or east to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.

Output Increase

Congo’s copper production rose 14 percent in the first quarter to 230,000 metric tons, according to Federation des Entreprises du Congo.

At least 13 people have died from Ebola since an outbreak began on July 28 in Congo’s northern Equateur province, according to the World Health Organization. The strain is believed to be unrelated to cases in West Africa, where the disease has killed at least 1,427 people.

The majority of Congo’s output comes from projects run by Phoenix-based Freeport, Baar, Switzerland-based Glencore Plc, and London-based Eurasian Natural Resources Corp.

In addition to the trucks halted at Kazungula, at least another 20 of Hakuna Matata’s vehicles are being diverted to neighboring Zimbabwe, Gilson said. Zambian authorities are allowing drivers from Congo to cross its borders after screening them for Ebola, he said.

Loadup Logistics, a Johannesburg-based hauler of Congolese cobalt and copper, said its trucks are facing increased screening at Beit Bridge on the Zimbabwean border with South Africa. The company doesn’t use the route that goes through Botswana.

“We’ve had about four trucks stopped at Beit Bridge over the past few days, checking the drivers for any signs of fever,” Tonderai Mawoko, an operations manager at Loadup, said by phone. “As the days go on and more cases of Ebola are reported from the Congo, we expect they’ll be more strict.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net Paul Richardson, Ana Monteiro

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