China Molybdenum will invest $2.51 billion to double copper and cobalt production at its giant Tenke Fungurume mine (TFM) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The project, expected to be completed and online in 2023, includes building three ore production lines. They are forecast to rise average annual copper output at the mine by 200,000 tonnes and increase cobalt output by 17,000 tonnes, the company said in a filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
China Moly started in July trial production at a separate expansion at the mine, which is slated to produce 88,500 tonnes of copper cathode and 7,280 tonnes of cobalt hydroxide. It also has a designed capacity to process 3.3 million tonnes of ore per year.
The new investment, to be financed with the Chinese miner’s own funds and through bank loans, comes as prices for both metals have soared this year as economies rebound from the covid-19 pandemic, positively affecting demand.
Copper is up 23% year to date on the London Metal Exchange after hitting a record high of almost $10,750 a tonne in May. The metal rose on Friday as a union at the world’s biggest copper mine, Chile’s Escondida, told workers to prepare for a strike that would reduce supply of the metal.
Prices for the metal used in construction, power and electric vehicles (EVs) were still down this week due to concerns that demand in top consumer China, currently grappling with a fresh coronavirus outbreak, will weaken.
The price of cobalt, a key ingredient for the batteries that power EVs, is up 64%, trading at around $52,000 a tonne.
China Moly acquired a controlling stake in Tenke Fungurume, one of the world’s largest copper-cobalt deposits, in 2016 for $2.65 billion from US miner Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX). In 2019, it spent another $1.14 billion to boost its holding to 80%.
TFM produced around 182,600 tonnes of copper and 15,400 tonnes of cobalt in 2020. Output is forecast to be higher this year.
(With files from Reuters)