LONDON – The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mines Ministry said it wouldn’t oppose a transfer of ownership in the country’s biggest copper and cobalt producer, marking a departure from previous actions to block or tax changes in shareholding structures.
Glencore said last week it’s considering increasing its 69% stake in the Mutanda Mining project, also known as Mumi. The rest is owned by Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler’s Fleurette Group.
“I don’t believe” the state needs to authorize changes in ownership in the Mutunda project, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said late Tuesday in response to questions.
Congo’s government in May announced it would investigate and tax Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s sale of its 56% stake in the Tenke Fungurume Mining project, known as TFM, to China Molybdenum Co. for $2.65-billion. The government has since lifted its objections, but State-owned copper miner Gecamines, which owns 20% of the mine, continues to oppose the deal, insisting that its rights to match the offer have been ignored.
“Don’t confuse Mumi with TFM, these are different regimes,” Kabwelulu said by text message. “TFM is a convention in which the state is a shareholder, while Mumi is a 100% private business.”
Glencore and Gertler began investing in mines in Congo almost a decade ago and now jointly own 100% of Mutanda, despite a provision in Congo’s mining code that usually awards the government a 5% noncontributing stake. The companies have invested $1.8-billion in the mine, of which $440-million has come from Fleurette, according to its website.
A spokesperson for Fleurette declined to comment on the potential sale.
In 2015, Mutanda produced 216 100 metric tons of copper and 16 500 tons of cobalt, more than any other mine in Congo, Africa’s biggest producer of the metals. TFM was the country’s second-largest producer that year, mining 203 964 tons of copper and 16 014 tons of cobalt.