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US DFC boosts Congo funding, bids to de-risk world's top cobalt supplier

A cobalt mining operation in the DRC

Photo by Bloomberg

6th February 2024

By: Reuters

  

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The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) said it was scaling up financing and guarantees for mining projects in Democratic Republic of Congo, to help de-risk and unlock private sector investment in the world's top cobalt producer.

The DFC could more than double its investment in the mining sector in African countries, including DRC, to about $1.4-billion from $750-million invested in 2023 in a major drive to secure future supplies of critical metals, Nisha Biswal, the deputy CEO, told Reuters.

While some of the financing is targeted for mining projects, the DFC is also allocating money to infrastructure such as roads and power supply to limit investment hurdles that are holding back private sector investment, she said.

"We are leaning in on our own financing, not only in the mineral sector but writ large in places like DRC with the hopes of being able to de-risk and bring in private, you know more private capital," Biswal said on the sidelines of the African Mining Indaba event.

Chinese State-backed mining companies have tightened their hold on minerals including copper, cobalt and lithium in Congo and the rest of Africa to guarantee future supplies.

US financing could help widen the pool of investors and introduce competition, said Biswal, adding that the US sent its biggest delegation ever to this year's African mining conference.

"As long as we using competition to create a race to the top and not a race to the bottom, I think that's a good thing," she said.

The DFC is building a pipeline of projects it plans to invest in, some of which are undergoing screening and due diligence.

"We have a very healthy pipeline that we've built up in critical minerals and you're going to start to see those investments announced as soon as they go through that process," Biswal said.

The US government is also backing the Lobito rail corridor project that seeks to help ease shipments from the central African copperbelt to Angola's coast on the Atlantic.

The spending will continue even as prices for some commodities such as cobalt have come off because the future fundamentals are still strong, Biswal said.

"Do I wish we had gotten in the game earlier? Of course," Biswal said. "But... DFC came online four and half years ago and I think we've come in really strong. We've scaled up really fast."

Edited by Reuters

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