DRC: False alarm says China Moly, denies Tenke copper-cobalt mine take over

By Aaron Ross
Posted on Friday, 10 June 2022 10:01

Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine 110 km northwest of Lubumbashi REUTERS/Jonny Hogg

Who really is in charge of Tenke Fungurume Mining? The majority owner, China Molybdenum, contradicts a DRC state mine company official who says that a temporary administrator had taken over control of the world's second-largest producer of cobalt.

The secretary-general of Congo’s state mining company Gecamines said Thursday that a court-appointed temporary administrator had officially taken charge amid a dispute between TFM shareholders.

China Moly controls an 80% stake in the copper and cobalt mine, while Gecamines owns 20%.

“There is no change in the management right of TFM, and production and operations are running as usual,” China Molybdenum spokesperson Vincent Zhou said in an email.

A court had appointed the administrator, Sage Ngoie Mbayo, in February for a period of six months in response to a claim brought by Gecamines.

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

Ngoie, 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.

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 CMOC (China Moly),” he said.

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

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

China Moly and Gecamines are “continuing to move forward” with talks around royalty payments, Zhou said on Friday.

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

Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, which is used in electric batteries, and Africa’s leading miner of copper.

TFM produced 18,501 tonnes of cobalt and 209,120 tonnes of copper last year, according to China Moly.

TFM aims to produce 227,000-267,000 tonnes of copper and 17,500-20,500 tonnes of cobalt in 2022.

– Reuters

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