SMM News: the production of artisanal cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will fall sharply after the collapse in prices, prompting many of the country's thousands of artisanal miners to turn their attention to copper.
Last year, Congo produced about 72 per cent of the world's cobalt, a key ingredient in rechargeable batteries for electric cars and smartphones. Although most of DRC's production comes from large mechanized mines run by companies such as Glencore (Glencore Plc), manual miners using basic tools tend to respond more quickly to price changes.
Artisanal production soared during the rise in cobalt prices in 2017 and early 2018, accounting for 20 per cent of Congo cobalt production last year, according to Darton Commodities. The Congolese authorities say the figure is as high as 30%. After the glut caused cobalt prices to plummet by about 70 per cent from their peak, many artisanal miners in gold are now turning their attention to copper.
Jacques Cambu (Jacques Kaumbu), president of a mining cooperative in Lualaba province, says artisanal miners are now more likely to mine copper. They are no longer interested in cobalt ore.
This year, the Kaumbu cooperative, which produces only 2000 tons of ore per month, 15 per cent of which is cobalt, has halved its workforce to about 500. a year ago, cobalt ore was 4000 tons and copper was 1000 tons.
Andries Gerbens (Andries Gerbens), an expert on cobalt at Darton Commodities, said manual cobalt production could fall by more than 70 per cent this year. Although exact figures are not available, as many as 200000 people in Katanga depend on artisanal mining for a living.
Jack, Roskill Information Services Cobalt expert and Director? Mr (Jack Bedder) said artisanal production would fall back to pre-boom levels from 2013 to 2016.
Chemaf Sarl, which is also privately owned by Lualaba, and its partner, Trafigura Group (Trafigura Group Ltd.) The future of their pilot artisanal mining projects is also being assessed. James Nicholson, head of social responsibility at Trafigura, said the falling cobalt price made the joint venture "very challenging". Of the 4100 authorized manual miners in the Mutoshi cobalt artisanal project this year, about 2800 have been phased out.
Analysts, including Darton Commodities, said that looking ahead, manual miners are expected to return to the cobalt market once the cobalt market returns to expected deficits in the next 10 years, as sales of electric vehicles are expected to grow sharply.
The country produced 552044 tons of copper in the January-May period, up about 11.2 per cent from 496468 tons in the same period last year, the central bank said on Tuesday.
Cobalt production in the January-May period was 44522 tons, up about 2.8 per cent from 43291 tons in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, gold production fell 6.4 per cent to 13511 kg.
But the Congolese mining industry has not been calm in recent days.
On June 27, the KOV open-pit copper and cobalt mine in (KCC), the mining area of Glencore (Glencore) 's Kamoto copper company, partially collapsed, killing at least 43 illegal miners and expelling thousands.
The mine is one of Zambia's largest copper mines, with KCC producing 152400 tons of copper and 11100 tons of cobalt last year. Glencore's nearby Mutanda project produced 199000 tons of copper and 27300 tons of cobalt last year.
Artisanal mining on the edge of commercial mining areas is a major problem for the whole of Africa. Outdated and unregulated mining methods used by miners tend to endanger safety, so mining accidents in the Congo alone kill dozens of people each year.
As illegal miners refused to leave the mine, they gathered near the copper and cobalt mine to protest, and the Congolese army tried to disperse the crowd and sound warnings to the air.
The Lualaba provincial government of the KCC mine, where the mine is located, has made some concessions, promising to allow expelled miners to continue mining, but the miners still doubt whether there will be thousands more to be absorbed in the mine.
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