Copper mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year likely surpassed Zambia’s output for the first time since 1988, making it Africa’s biggest producer, according to CRU Group, a commodities analysis company that partly specialises in metals intelligence.
Congo produced 846,000 metric tons of the metal in 2013, which was about two percent more than its southern neighbour, Piotr Ortonowski, a copper consultant at the London-based company, told Bloomberg citing preliminary figures, while adding that both countries hold the scope to more than double volumes in the next decade.
“This is potential production from projects and it is highly unlikely that it will all come on stream – realistically only 50-60% of it will,” he said. “It will be the nations’ ability to provide a favourable investment environment to mine-project developers that will determine which will be the most successful.”
Zambia and Congo have had their economic growth equally spurred by investment in mining as companies seek to benefit from prices for copper, which have more than doubled in a decade, but considerable concerns still remain among investors in the industry over the stability of mining laws, electricity supplies and security, Ortonowski said.
He added that both countries are revising mining legislation and considering increasing royalties.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Congo produced more than 900,000 tons of copper in 2013, compared with around 600,000 tonnes a year earlier, while Zambia’s output for the first 11 months of 2013 was 916,000 tons, according to the country’s central bank, though the Chamber of Mines has claimed the figure to be inflated by double-counting.
In related events, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has deployed extra troops in the copper-producing Katanga province to reinforce the security situation against the threat of actions by secessionist group Mai Mai Kata Katanga.
While Katanga is believed to hold at least 10% of the world’s copper deposits and a third of the global cobalt deposits, militia attacks over the past three months have uprooted more than 400,000 people from between the mining towns of Pweto, Manono and Mitwaba.
Katanga’s mining industry in particular has flourished over the past five years, and is largely credited for spearheading the turnaround of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy.
The price of copper for delivery in three months has fallen 9.2% on the London Metal exchange over the past year.