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DRC authorities lift ban on Glencore’s cobalt and copper exports

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) lifted the ban on the exports for Glencore’s minerals this past weekend. The director general of Congo’s custom’s agency Jean Baptiste Nkongolo Kabila said that the decision to lift was made after Glencore’s official submitted a request to temporary lift the suspension measures.

Katanga Mining, controlled by Glencore, said in a statement earlier Thursday it had been blocked on November 9 from exporting copper and cobalt from Congo. This, they said, was over a dispute around payments on copper that was never actually mined years ago. As such, the Congo government asked for US $129.8m to settle the dispute. However, Katanga has since rejected the number.

Katanga Mining stands as one of Glencore’s most important growth projects. It restarted production in December 2017 after a two-year hiatus during which it invested in new processing facilities. According to its projections as at 2018, Katanga had expected to produce as much as 300 000 metric tons of copper and 34 000 tons of cobalt in 2019. The achievement of this fete would make it Congo’s largest copper project and the world’s biggest source of cobalt.

Last week, however, Katanga halted sales of cobalt after detecting levels of uranium in supplies above those allowed for export. It then released a statement saying that it will hold all exports until the second half of 2019. Until then, however, it will continue to mine and stockpile cobalt.

Earlier this year, Glencore agreed to a US $5.6Bn debt-to-equity swap at Katanga. The move would serve to reduce the debt load of the subsidiary which Glencore co-owns with Gecamines. That deal also included a one-time payment of US $150m to Gecamines.

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