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US agency sees Lobito rail corridor helping to diversify critical minerals supply chains

DFC CEO Scott Nathan

12th July 2023

By: Terence Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) CEO Scott Nathan has reiterated the American government’s interest in helping to finance the Lobito rail corridor, linking the copper and cobalt mining regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia to Angola’s Lobito port.

Nathan, who is heading the US Delegation to the US-Africa Business Summit in Botswana this week, made specific reference to the corridor during a virtual media briefing hosted on the sidelines of the summit.

Responding to a question related to what progress had been made since the signing, in December, of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signalling America’s support for the joint development by DRC and Zambia of a battery metals supply chain, Nathan made a direct link between the MoU and the Lobito corridor.

“One notable project announced by President [Joe] Biden at the most recent G7 meeting in Japan is DFC’s interest in supporting the development of a railway in the Lobito corridor, which will connect the Copperbelt in DRC and Zambia, through Angola, to global markets.”

It was confirmed in May that the DFC was conducting a due diligence for a potential financing package of $250-million for the open-access Lobito Atlantic Railway Corridor, which would be its first investment in rail on the continent.

On July 4, a 30-year concession for the Lobito Corridor – ­ comprising a 1 300-km Angola leg to the DRC border and a further 400-km link to the copper-rich Kolwezi region of the DRC ­– to the private Lobito Atlantic Railway, was announced. The company is a joint venture comprising Trafigura, Mota-Engil and Vecturis.

Overall, the consortium plans to invest $455-million in Angola and up to $100-million in the DRC and is studying an additional investment to extend the line further into Zambia.

Nathan argued that such infrastructure was crucial for the development of critical minerals that “are incredibly important for the development of the 21st Century economy and for the energy transition”.

He also expressed support for value addition within the DRC and Zambia, adding that no country should monopolise the processing of these materials.

“It's important to diversify supply chains globally, and adding local value is key to that.”

His statement came a day after the publication of the International Energy Agency’s inaugural ‘Critical Minerals Market Review’, which confirms that there has been a significant rise in exploration and mine development investment for critical minerals, including cobalt and copper.

However, the report warned that there had been little progress in diversifying both mine supply and processing, with China dominating the processing of cobalt, lithium, graphite and rare earths.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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