Business Day, June 1, 2007
MINERALS company Chrometco appears to have been compelled to move its planned copper and cobalt refinery from SA to the Democratic Republic of Congo, as that country takes an ever-harder line on minerals beneficiation.
The loss of jobs and investment to SA is an irony, as the South African government also has a policy insisting on local beneficiation of raw materials.
In early March, the governor of Congo's Katanga province closed the border post to Zambia for three weeks to trucks carrying unrefined copper and cobalt ore, on the grounds that Congolese laws prohibited the export of ore that could be processed locally.
The move trapped about 400 laden trucks. Mining companies said the Congo was blocking more than 5000 ton s a day of unrefined copper and cobalt due to be processed in Zambia.
Later, the prohibition was relaxed to permit copper concentrates to be exported.
Chrometco said last year it had completed a feasibility study on building a copper and cobalt refinery near Brits and would make a decision on whether to proceed when the funds were available.
But it said yesterday it had needed to revisit the project "because the long-term risk of obtaining raw ore from the Congo became an issue that the company could not ignore".
It did not cite Congo's government's recent clampdown. But it already has a joint venture partner in Congo with whom it had been discussing constructing a concentrator to upgrade copper ore being mined by artisanal miners at Kawama.