Congo’s president wants new exploration for green energy metals

Felix Tshisekedi became DRC’s president in January 2019. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo wants to position itself as a key source of metals in the green energy transition, and that will mean new exploration for nickel and chrome, according to President Felix Tshisekedi.

Exploration for the two minerals will begin “in the next few days” in Congo’s southern, diamond-rich Kasai region, Tshisekedi said Tuesday at the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The country is also looking for partners to invest in cobalt, tantalum, tin and lithium processing.

The transition to clean-energy technologies is a huge driving force for metals used in batteries, solar components, wind turbines and EVs. Meanwhile, mine output has been limited, helping to send prices for the commodities higher. Copper on the London Metal Exchange is up more than 40% since the end of 2019, while nickel surged more than 90%.

Congo provides more than two-thirds of the key battery mineral cobalt and is tied with Peru as the world’s second-biggest copper producer, according to the US Geological Survey. It also has significant deposits of other minerals including lithium, graphite and manganese. But only 19% of the country — Africa’s second-biggest by landmass — has been properly explored, Tshisekedi said.

‘New deposits’

“The goal is to discover new deposits that can be the subject of calls for bids, with a view to concluding mutually profitable public-private partnerships,” Tshisekedi said according to an emailed transcript of his remarks. The country’s recently created national geologic service will oversee the exploration, he said.

The president is hoping to attract new investment by improving the regulatory environment and through the creation of incentives like a special economic zone around lithium deposits in southeastern Congo, he said.

“Financiers, mining operators, equipment manufacturers, subcontractors, recyclers — everyone can find their part,” he said.

Despite its mineral riches, Congo remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and miners will be expected to ensure Congolese people also benefit, he said. This will include buying insurance from companies registered in Congo and negotiating development projects with local communities during exploration, he said.

(By Michael J. Kavanagh)


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