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Cobalt Miner China Moly Loses Control of Disputed African Site

The dispute started last August when the DRC government announced it had formed a commission to reassess the reserves and resources at the mine


A squabble among shareholders in a Chinese-owned cobalt and copper mine in Africa has led to a court appointing a temporary administrator.
Excavators and drillers work in the open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine 110 km northwest of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's copper-producing south. Photo: Reuters.

 

A squabble among shareholders in a Chinese-owned cobalt and copper mine in Africa has led to a court appointing a temporary administrator.

China Molybdenum’s ownership of the Tenke Fungurume (TFM) mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was halted for a period of six months in response to a claim brought by the state miner Gecamines.

China Moly, as it is known, controls an 80% stake in the mine. Gecamines owns 20%.

Implementation of the ruling was suspended after the DRC government called for an investigation. But in a letter dated June 1 and seen by Reuters, DRC Minister of Justice Ruth Mutombo ordered that it be enforced.

Sage Ngoie Mbayo, who had been named Gecamines’ representative to TFM shortly before his appointment as temporary administrator, officially took charge on Thursday, Gecamines secretary-general Patrice Pungwe said.

 

‘TFM is Run By Me’

In a video filmed at TFM’s offices, Ngoie declared that he was now in control. “At this time, TFM is run by me. It is not run by Gecamines or by [China Moly],” he said.

A spokesman for China Moly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dispute started last August when the DRC government announced it had formed a commission to reassess the reserves and resources at TFM, which is among the world’s largest cobalt and copper producers.

The government suspects the mine has understated its levels of reserves in order to reduce the amount it pays to Gecamines. China Moly denies having done so.

The court order in February tasked Ngoie with “reconciling the two partners on the points of divergence, namely access to technical information”.

The DRC is the world’s top producer of cobalt, which is used in electric vehicle batteries, and is Africa’s leading source of copper.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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