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Congo sells its own copper from joint ventures for first time

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s state miner has started selling its share of copper from joint-venture projects for the first time as the country seeks greater control over a metal key to the energy transition.

Gecamines holds minority stakes in large mines run by firms such as China’s CMOC Group and Glencore Plc. Until now, the joint ventures themselves have sold all the production. But the state company is taking a more active role in marketing its portion — totaling hundreds of thousands of tons a year – according to people familiar with the matter.

Gecamines is offering copper from CMOC’s giant Tenke Fungurume mine, in which it holds a 20% interest, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private negotiations. The state miner is assessing bids — including from Glencore, Trafigura Group and Mercuria Energy Group — for 90,000 tons from the project, two of the people said.

The three trading houses declined to comment, while the Tenke JV and Gecamines didn’t respond.

Gecamines’ move creates opportunities for traders to bid on sizable new contracts at a time of heated competition for copper deals. Congo has recently become the world’s No. 2 producer and has seen exports almost triple since 2016. Yet many expect global demand — led by growth in electric vehicles, grid infrastructure and data centers — to outstrip investment in new supplies.

Gecamines also held a smaller tender earlier this year, with CMOC metals trader IXM buying copper from the Kambove mine, according to the people. Kambove is a joint venture between the Congolese state and China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group.

IXM didn’t respond to questions about the Kambove tender.

Gecamines plans to run similar processes for its share of copper from Glencore’s Kamoto operation and the Chinese-owned Sicomines project, one of the people said. Together, those two assets produced more than 400,000 tons of the metal last year.

By organizing the tenders, Gecamines hopes to gain more insight into whether its partners — some of which are both miners and traders — are selling their larger portions at the best possible price, two of the people said.

Benchmark copper prices surged to a record above $11,000 a ton in May, before retreating on a softening market in top consumer China.

The state company hasn’t yet sold any cobalt, a copper byproduct that’s used in EV batteries, according to the people. Congo accounted for about three-quarters of global output last year, but prices have tumbled amid a glut of supply.


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