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Congo mines minister seeks to cancel artisanal cobalt monopoly

Democratic Republic of Congo Mines Minister Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi is seeking to cancel a decree granting Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), a monopoly over artisanal cobalt produced in the country.

According to the minister, cancellation will allow all companies can compete to buy artisanal cobalt. The move to cancel the decree would be reviewed by the Congo’s ministerial council and by the prime minister Artisanal miners, who dig cobalt with rudimentary means, are the world’s second largest source of the metal used in electric vehicle batteries after the Congo’s industrial mines. EGC was created to buy, process and market artisanal cobalt by government decree in December 2019 and officially launched on March 31 last year, but has yet to purchase any cobalt ore.

Artisanal mining zone

A unit of state mining company Gecamines, EGC’s operations have stalled due to infighting between government departments, leadership change at Gecamines, and the challenge of securing access to a viable artisanal site to buy from.

“I wouldn’t say I am for or against, but one thing is certain: We gave the monopoly to Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), and that is a violation of the laws of the Republic. Bringing artisanal mining into the formal economy is a headache for the government and for industrial cobalt mines, many of which have artisanal miners digging illegally on their concessions. Congolese law allows industrial mines to cede a part of their licence to artisanal miners, and I am supportive of companies working to formalise the sector,” Kalambayi said.

In Congo, artisanal digging is only legal on a “Zone d’Exploitation Artisanale” – artisanal mining zone – but in practice it frequently occurs elsewhere, as there are not enough ZEAs that have viable deposits.

 

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