May 10, 2010 (DOW JONES NEWSWIRES) -- Congo's 2010 copper output is expected to hit 400,000 metric tons as output rises at several new mining projects, the ministry of mines said Monday.
In a report, the ministry projects that annual copper output will exceed 800,000 tons by 2012 due to increased production from mines operated by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX), Toronto-listed Katanga Mining Ltd. (KAT.T) and the state-mining company Gecamines.
Freeport operates Congo's largest copper/cobalt mine Tenke Fungurume, which began commercial production last year. The project is believed to hold the world's largest unexploited copper and cobalt reserves.
Congo last produced more than 400,000 tons of copper in a year in the 1980s before years of political mismanagement and civil war led to the near collapse of the sector.
The ministry said cobalt production is expected to exceed 90,000 tons by 2012 compared with this year's forecast of 30,000 tons. Congo holds at least a third of the global cobalt reserves.
The government projects that by 2012 the mining sector will create up to 50,000 direct jobs and about 300,000 indirect jobs.
The ministry also forecast significant output increases for other minerals, including gold, diamonds and cassiterite, or tin ores.
Congo produces between 5% and 7% of the global tin output, despite the chaotic nature of the country's tin mining sector in the lawless Kivu provinces.