First copper from DRC-CHINA deal due by year end – govt

A joint venture between Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) State miner and two Chinese companies, signed under a 2009 “minerals for infrastructure” deal, will begin producing copper before the end of 2015, the DRC’s government said on Thursday.

Under the deal Chinese companies pledged to build $3-billion worth of roads, railways, schools, and hospitals in return for a 68% stake in a joint venture operating copper plants with state miner Gecamines in the southern Katanga province.

The Chinese firms involved in the Sicomines joint venture are Sinohydro Corp and China Railway Group Limited.

The DRC government office charged with overseeing implementation of the deal said copper output would begin “in the fall of 2015” at a rate of 50 000 t/y, rising to an expected 400 000 t/y over the next two decades.

“This mutually beneficial cooperation with our Chinese partners is a strong example for others interested in investment opportunities in (Congo),” Moïse Ekanga, executive secretary of the office, said in a statement.

An original $9-billion deal signed in 2007 was reduced to about $6-billion after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) objected to the amount of debt DRC was taking on.

Ekanga led a tour of the Sicomines plants taken last weekend by the IMF’s resident representative in the DRC, the World Bank’s country director and several foreign diplomats.

The DRC, which vies with Zambia to be Africa’s top copper producer, extracted more than one-million tonnes of the metal for the first time in 2014.

The mining sector helped power economic growth of 9.5% in 2014, according to the government. However, after two decades of armed conflict, the DRC still ranks 186 out of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index.

The government has predicted 10.3% growth for 2015.

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