Home » Congo’s Power Crisis Threatens Cobalt and Copper Production

Congo’s Power Crisis Threatens Cobalt and Copper Production

A Chinese mining company warns of the impact of electricity shortages on its operations in the mineral-rich country.

by Motoni Olodun

A Chinese mining company, CMOC Group, has warned that the lack of electricity supply in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could hamper its plans to expand its cobalt and copper output in the mineral-rich country. The DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, and the third-largest producer of copper, a metal widely used in construction and electronics.

CMOC Group, which operates the Tenke Fungurume mine, one of the largest copper and cobalt mines in the DRC, said that it has enough power for its current capacity, but not for future growth. The company said that it has been looking for alternative sources of energy, such as hydropower and renewable energy, but that these projects are time-consuming and face infrastructure challenges.

The DRC has been struggling with chronic power shortages for decades, due to ageing infrastructure, mismanagement, and underinvestment. According to the World Bank, only 19% of the population had access to electricity in 2019, and the average electricity consumption per capita was 105 kWh, compared to the sub-Saharan African average of 488 kWh and the global average of 3,133 kWh.

The power crisis has also affected other mining companies operating in the DRC, such as Glencore, Ivanhoe Mines, and China Molybdenum. These companies have been forced to rely on expensive diesel generators, import electricity from neighbouring countries, or reduce their production levels. The DRC’s state-owned power utility, SNEL, has been unable to meet the growing demand from the mining sector, which accounts for about 60% of the country’s electricity consumption.

The DRC’s mining industry is also facing other challenges, such as transport disruptions, security risks, and political uncertainty. A recent strike by truck drivers had blocked the export of copper and cobalt from mines to ports in South Africa, Tanzania, and Namibia. The country is also preparing for a presidential election on December 20, which could trigger violence and unrest.

Despite these difficulties, CMOC Group said that it remains optimistic about the prospects of its DRC operations and that it does not expect the election to affect its production and investment plans. The company said that the DRC needs to develop its economy and that mineral investment is an important part of it. The company also said that it has been looking for opportunities in other regions, such as South America and Southeast Asia, where it has invested in nickel and lithium projects.

The DRC has the potential to become a global leader in the green energy transition, thanks to its abundant natural resources and strategic location. However, to achieve this, the country needs to overcome its power challenges and create a stable and conducive environment for investment and development.

Source: Mining Weekly


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