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State miner opposes new China sale

DRC-owned Gécamines is likely to clash with Tshisekedi after saying it will block Norin Mining from buying Chemaf Resources

The statement by Congo-Kinshasa’s state-owned miner Gécamines that it will oppose the sale of Trafigura Group-backed miner Chemaf Resources Ltd. to China’s Norin Mining Ltd. puts it on a collision course with President Félix Tshisekedi’s government which has already approved the sale (AC Vol 65 No 10, Mining colossus Gécamines hires lobbyists to boost bargaining with Washington).

Chemaf leases the permit for its Mutoshi project from Gécamines. Gécamines’s board said it unanimously rejected the sale on 1 July, adding that the parastatal had the right to reject the ownership transfer.

Chemaf wants the sale to settle debts which have, until now, been guaranteed by Trafigura. Last October, it announced that it needed US$300 million to complete the expansion to produce about 75,000 tonnes of copper and 20,000 tonnes of cobalt annually at Mutoshi.

Chinese miners currently control an estimated 80% of the copper and cobalt industry in Congo-K, a vital source of mineral supplies needed for the production of batteries for electric vehicles (AC Vol 64 No 12, Tshisekedi returns empty-handed). The United States and European Union are also scrambling to increase their own access to these minerals, which they need to power their carbon emission reduction targets, but their starting position is far weaker than China’s.

Trafigura arranged a $600m loan for Chemaf in 2022 to finance the development of Mutoshi and the upgrade of its existing Etoile copper and cobalt operation. Last October, Chemaf stated that its debt burden stood at $690m, of which $510m was from its Trafigura loan facility.

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