DRC concentrate ban is not new, says Ivanhoe CFO Marna Cloete

Marna explains that the rules now recognise that a derogation may be justified for a number of reasons.

Canadian mining company Ivanhoe Mines, which is advancing principal projects in Southern Africa, is facing export issues within days of starting copper production at its Kamoa-Kakula joint venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This is largely as a result of the DRC reintroducing its ban on copper and cobalt concentrate exports, which expired early April.

Ivanhoe Mines’ president and CFO Marna Cloete commented, “The concentrate export ban is not new. However, the rules now recognise that a derogation may be justified for a number of reasons. Kamoa Copper has filed the necessary application materials and we have had constructive discussions with the minister of mines on obtaining a derogation for Kamoa-Kakula given current limitations on smelting capacity in-country."

Phase one of the joint venture with Zijin Mining started its 3.8 million tonne per annum production at the end of May. It is expected to make the world’s second-largest copper mining complex with peak production estimated at 800,000 tonnes per annum, marking a new commercial copper production era for Ivanhoe, which is also redeveloping Platreef discovery in South Africa.

Ivanhoe said it was aware of the order issued to customs officials by a provincial director in Katanga as well as subsequent correspondence confirming that companies with a derogation letter from the minister of mines would be allowed to export concentrates.

A sector-wide derogation from the concentrate export prohibition expired on 12 April 2021 and was replaced by a framework allowing the minister of mines to grant individual derogations on a case-by-case basis following an application by an interested party.

“We fully intend to utilise local smelter capacity to the extent possible. Furthermore, as we announced in March, Ivanhoe Mines, together with our joint venture partner Zijin Mining, is assessing the construction of a smelting complex at Kamoa-Kakula for the production of blister and anode copper,” Marna said.

“This is all part of our intention to operate responsibly in the DRC for generations to come, and for the benefit of all of our stakeholders, including the government of DRC who are our 20 percent partner in Kamoa Copper,” she added.

Despite this, mining companies are expected to be jittery in a country that was recently rated as the riskiest mining jurisdiction in the world.