Congo Delays Copper, Cobalt Concentrate Export Ban

The Democratic Republic of Congo, which has some of the world’s richest metal deposits, delayed a ban on the export of copper and cobalt concentrate until next year, the country’s mines minister said.

The ban, which had been scheduled to start this month, is supposed to compel mining companies to process metals and minerals in Congo. Miners had complained that the country doesn’t generate adequate electricity to process all of its minerals and had asked for a delay.

“The moratorium is until Dec. 31, 2013,” Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said in a mobile-phone text message yesterday, without providing further details.

Congo was the world’s eighth-largest producer of copper and the biggest miner of cobalt last year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Power shortages have forced some miners to install generators or buy electricity from neighboring Zambia to run processing plants.

Glencore Xstrata Plc, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. were the country’s largest miners in 2012, responsible for 58 percent of copper production and 56 percent of cobalt output, according to Mines Ministry statistics.

According to provincial mining statistics from Katanga, at least 13 miners exported concentrates of copper, cobalt or a copper-cobalt concentrate last year. At least seven companies exported cobalt hydroxide, which may be subject to the ban or to increased taxes depending on the composition, according to an April 5 order from the mines and finance ministries.

Katanga Tax

Congo’s Mines Ministry previously banned the export of concentrated minerals in April 2010. That month, Katangan Governor Moise Katumbi allowed mining companies to continue exporting concentrated minerals if they paid a $60 per metric ton tax.

Freeport, whose Tenke mine ships cobalt hydroxide, and West Perth, Australia-based Mawson West Ltd. and Tiger Resources Ltd., whose projects currently produce concentrated copper, have said they don’t expect to be affected by the ban. Tiger is building a new processing plant that will begin producing copper cathode next year, the company said in a statement on its website last month.

A spokesman for Glencore, which exported some concentrated copper-cobalt in 2012, declined to comment when contacted by phone today.

Glencore Expansion

The Baar, Switzerland-based company is scheduled to complete an expansion of two of its projects this year that could increase production of copper in cathode form to 470,000 tons per year, according to its first quarter report. Last year, the company’s projects produced 164,500 tons of copper, according to Mines Ministry statistics.

During the moratorium, companies shipping copper and cobalt concentrate must send a request to the mines minister, along with a copy of the processing contract, according to an order from the mines and finance ministries dated July 4 and e-mailed by the Mines Ministry today.

Companies also will be required to report final production figures after processing and “are subject to payment of duties and taxes due to the public treasury.”

Congo produced about 620,000 tons of copper in total last year, according to the Mines Ministry.

ENRC didn’t respond to e-mail and phone messages requesting comment.

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