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DRC orders Sicomines to halt unprocessed copper, cobalt exports

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DRC orders Sicomines to halt unprocessed copper, cobalt exports

The Democratic Republic of the Congo ordered Sinohydro Corp. and China Railway Construction Corp.'s Sicomines copper joint venture to halt exports of unprocessed copper and cobalt and instead refine all of its metals within the country, Bloomberg News reported Oct. 8.

Sicomines, which operates a US$3.2 billion mining project, must ship "only high-value products," as the DRC government seeks to "ensure the prompt repayment" of the country's continuing US$6 billion minerals-for-infrastructure deal with China, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said.

The project exported 115,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and 20,000 tonnes of copper cathodes in the first half and accounted for about a quarter of copper concentrate and 5% of copper cathode exports in 2016, according to the Provincial Division of Mines in South Katanga.

Kabwelulu, in a letter to Sicomines Director General Sun Ruiwen, said he disapproves of the products the company is exporting and local mining authorities have been instructed to "no longer authorize the export of mining products other than" processed copper and cobalt. Only 44 of 112 trucks carrying metal exports were allowed to proceed because they were already at the border, Kabwelulu said.

Sicomines is in contact with the ministry to address the situation, Deputy Director General Jean Nzeng said. "There are no major problems," the official noted.

The DRC ordered a ban on copper and cobalt concentrate exports in 2013, but its implementation was postponed several times as the country does not generate enough power to process the products locally.