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Freeport to maintain control over DRC cobalt assets

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. has no plans to sell its cobalt projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo even though several parties are interested, Reuters reported Feb. 26, citing Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson.

The prices offered were not enough to prompt a sale, but the miner plans to explore other options, including a joint venture, to develop the project.

The miner's previous attempt to sell the assets, which includes the Kisanfu exploration project in the Congo and the Kokkola cobalt refinery in Finland, fell through in June 2017.

At Kisanfu, Freeport outlined 49 million tonnes of milling material grading 2.48% copper and 47 million tonnes of leaching material at 3.16% copper. The resource included cobalt grading 1.15%, which is very high by industry standards.

Freeport sold its 70% interest in TF Holdings to China Molybdenum Co. Ltd. for US$2.65 billion in cash and up to US$120 million in contingent consideration in 2016. TF Holdings indirectly owns an 80% stake in the Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt project in the DRC.

In addition, Adkerson said Rio Tinto, the company's joint venture partner in the Grasberg copper-gold mine in Indonesia, is expected to start talks with the Indonesian government "in the very near term" regarding the sale of Rio Tinto's stake in Grasberg.

He said the discussion will not involve Freeport and the Indonesian government is preparing itself for negotiations, including hiring technical experts and site visits.

Indonesia recently issued a copper concentrate export permit for Freeport subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia, after the previous permit expired Feb. 16.