Glencore cuts workers at Congo copper and cobalt mine

Mutanda copper and cobalt mine. Image from Glencore.

Glencore is cutting the workforce at its Mutanda copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo to lower costs before a possible shift in production methods, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company is studying the economic viability of those deposits, given rising production costs and an uncertainty political environment in Congo

Labour unions met on Friday to discuss the job cuts, which will affect contractors and expatriate employees, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. No Congolese nationals are affected.

The layoffs come as Glencore considers a plan to stop mining oxide ores at Mutanda — the world’s largest and richest source of cobalt — and invest in new methods to extract the metals from sulfide deposits. The company is studying the economic viability of those deposits, given rising production costs and an uncertainty political environment in Congo.

Relations between miners and the Congolese government have been strained following a revision to the mining code that tripled the royalties levied on cobalt. Mutanda is a crucial source of employment and tax revenue for Congo. The cuts to the mine’s workforce were reported earlier by the Financial Times.

Late last year, Glencore halted exports of cobalt from its neighboring Katanga mine after ores were found to be radioactive. The miner last week said it expects a large part of its cobalt output from Katanga will only be sold next year.

(By William Clowes, Mark Burton and Elena Mazneva)

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