Feasting on a global demand for cobalt and copper, the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo is flourishing, but two clouds are spoiling its sunlit future.
First is the lack of power, which is holding back the development of the minerals processing sector and crimping the country’s ability to reap higher profits from the boom.
DRC is Africa’s largest copper producer, and while it is the world’s leading source of cobalt, miners can only export concentrate forms of cobalt at 60-70% of the market price because of the energy problem.
“We have an estimated potential of 100 000 MW/year but only produce 3 000 MW/year,” said Michael Shengo chief of staff for the provincial mining minister for Haut-Katanga earlier this week as he opened DRC Mining Week, an annual conference in the southeastern town of Lubumbashi.
A massive hydropower project on the River Congo, Inga 3, has the potential to power the entire country and even the continent, but it has been frequently delayed.
Now the project is hopefully back on track thanks to a joint bid by Spanish and Chinese companies: China Three Gorges Corp and Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.
Bruno Kapandji, director of the Agency for the Development and Promotion of the Grand Inga Project announced the project’s relaunch in front of miners and investors at the conference.
“Our objective is to start the Inga project this year. It could take five to seven years, maybe up to 11 years,” said Kapandji.