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DRC: Gécamines takes over the artisanal cobalt mining sector

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Thursday, 8 April 2021 10:26

Artisanal cobalt mine in Tulwizmbe, Katanga. Kenny Katombe/REUTERS

Officially launched on 31 March, EGC - a new subsidiary of Gécamines - is intended to formalise and clean up a previously opaque artisanal mining sector. It will partner with Swiss commodities giant Trafigura, the US NGO Pact, and the UK auditors Kumi, using blockchain technology to track minerals as they pass through the system.

The Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC), a subsidiary of Gécamines, was officially launched in Johannesburg on 31 March. In development since its creation by a state decree in December 2019, and led since then by Jean-Dominique Takis, a senior executive and director of Gécamines, this new entity holds a monopoly on the purchase, processing and marketing of artisanally mined cobalt in the DRC.

“Our country holds 80% of the world’s cobalt reserves. It currently accounts for around 65% of global production, or 95,000 tonnes (tn) per year, of which 18,000tn, or $800m in revenue at current prices, comes from artisanal mining sites,” said Albert Yuma Mulimbi, president of Gécamines, who has been a driving force behind the creation of EGC.

A triple challenge to its mission

In a speech inflected with nationalist overtones, the Congolese CEO said the EGC will: “[Put] an end to a quasi mafia system based on the exploitation of Congolese workers, who are robbed of part of their income by intermediaries who sell untraceable ore through unauthorised export channels”.