Mining group CMOC sees electricity as constraint on Congo expansion

17th November 2023 By: Reuters

Chinese mining company CMOC Group said it expects electricity supply issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo to remain a constraint on expansion of its cobalt and copper production in the central African country.

The DRC, the world's top cobalt supplier and no. 3 copper producer after Peru and Chile, has struggled with power shortages, as well as difficulties in getting metals to ports in South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia for export.

A recent wildcat strike by truckers had stranded copper and cobalt from mines including CMOC's Tenke Fungurume.

Electricity supply is sufficient for CMOC's existing capacity, but power is the main impediment for future growth of its DRC operations, Li Chaochun, the company's vice chairman and chief investment officer, said in an interview during Asia Copper Week in Shanghai.

To improve the power supply, CMOC has been looking to tap hydropower projects and other new energy sources.

"There will be no major improvement in a short period of time given the projects, for example hydro, can be time-consuming and constrained by local infrastructure conditions," Li said.

Electricity supply from neighbouring countries such as Zambia can ease shortfalls but not significantly, Li added.

Li said he did not expect the upcoming presidential election in DRC to affect the company's production and investment plans.

"No matter what the final result is, the country needs to develop its economy, and mineral investment is an important part of it," he said.

Campaigning for the December 20 elections in Congo is due to begin on November 20.

Beyond Africa, the Chinese company has been looking at opportunities in South America and southeast Asia. It has invested in nickel in Indonesia and lithium in Bolivia.

"We are more inclined to invest in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia than in developed countries such as Australia and Canada," he said. "This is related to geopolitical relations. Investment in these countries may encounter difficulties in approval."