CMOC’s Congo mine suspends copper and cobalt exports

Aerial view of the processing plant at China Molybdenum’s Tenke Fungurume mine in 2015. (Image courtesy of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold)

CMOC’s Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mine has suspended all exports, logistics companies were told in a notice seen by Reuters late on Saturday, complying with demands by a court-appointed administrator.

A CMOC spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment but had said on Friday that the mine, which accounted for more than 10% of worldwide cobalt output in 2021, had not issued any instructions to stop exports. 

CMOC has been locked in dispute with the administrator appointed in February to run the mine for six months in response to a lawsuit by Congo state miner Gecamines, a minority stakeholder in Tenke Fungurume. 

The administrator, Sage Ngoie Mbayo, this month demanded that CMOC suspend marketing and export of its production because CMOC and Gecamines had not reached agreement this year on how to sell the mine’s output. 

CMOC, meanwhile, has denied the administrator access to the mine site.

In the notice to companies that transport the mine’s output, a CMOC unit announced immediate suspension of access to the mine for all copper and cobalt trucks until July 24, adding that companies would be informed if exports could resume on July 25. 

Three industry sources confirmed the suspension, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The administrator’s appointment stemmed from allegations by Gecamines that CMOC understated the mine’s reserves to reduce royalties it pays to Gecamines. CMOC denies the allegations. 

Congo’s government announced last August that it had formed a commission to reassess reserve levels, a rare instance of Congolese authorities challenging the Chinese companies that dominate its mining sector. 

Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, which is used in electric batteries and is Africa’s leading copper miner.

(By Aaron Ross and Helen Reid; Editing by David Goodman)

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