Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo's mineral-rich Katanga province lifted a ban on exports by 16 mining companies after they agreed to comply with a request to grow 500 hectares (1,236 acres) of corn.
All of the miners, which include Kamoto Copper Co., a joint venture between Bermuda-based Katanga Mining Ltd. and Congo's state-owned Gecamines, have agreed to plant corn in the future, Francois Kashinda, a spokesman for Katanga Governor Moise Katumbi, said in an e-mail today from Lubumbashi.
"They were also told to buy grain this year," he said.
On Feb. 1, Katumbi blocked the companies from exporting minerals for failing to comply with his request that they plant corn and manioc to feed their workers. Most of the companies affected were cobalt and copper producers.
The list of companies included Compagnie Miniere du Sud- Katanga, Congo Loyal Will Mining, Cota Mining, Feza Mining, Golden African, JMT/MJM, Katanga Copper Co., Katanga Metals, Magma Minerals, Mehul Mining, MIEL International, Mining Yue, New Dathu Minerals, Rubamin SPRL, SARDC and Volcano Mining.
The crop initiative is aimed at reducing Katanga's food imports, Kashinda said on Feb. 3.
George Forrest International SA, which owns 60 percent of Compagnie Miniere du Sud-Katanga, or CMSK, in a joint venture with Gecamines, said the global financial crisis was partly to blame for the delay in implementing the governor's request.
After "slowing down" operations between September 2008 and October 2009 because of a decline in cobalt prices, "CMSK has resumed its normal industrial activities and has an agreement with the provincial authority regarding agriculture," Henry de Harenne, spokesman for George Forrest Belgium, said by e-mail.
CMSK will buy fertilizer for Katanga's farmers this year and "will do what we used to do before the crisis and support agriculture in accordance with the provincial obligation" in the upcoming "agriculture year," Harenne said.
Calls by Bloomberg News to Katanga Mining Chief Financial officer Nicholas Brodie seeking comment were not returned.
Congo produces around half the world's cobalt, a metal used in rechargeable batteries, and holds 4 percent of global copper reserves. The Central African nation is also the continent's biggest tin producer. Companies including Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Johannesburg-based AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals Ltd. have operations in the country.
The global economic crisis hit Katanga "hard" in 2009, when low commodity prices forced many mines to close at the same time as food prices were increasing, according to the United Nations Development Program.