World’s Biggest Producer Doubles Cobalt Taxes Amid Electric-Vehicle Boom (Wall Street Journal – January 25, 2018)

Miners decry move as ‘total chaos’

Congo is moving to double taxes on cobalt, a move mining companies warned would inhibit investment in a metal experiencing a boom due to its use in cellphones and electric vehicles.

The Central Africa country holds as much as two-thirds of the world’s cobalt, putting it at the center of a growing piece of the global economy. The price of cobalt has doubled since the beginning of 2017 as mining, technology and auto companies rush to secure supplies of a metal that is a crucial ingredient in the lithium-ion battery.

The Congolese Senate passed late Wednesday the new mining code unanimously with the support of President Joseph Kabila, who is expected to sign it into law. Over the past three years, Congo has struggled to raise enough revenues to pay public workers and fund social projects, fueling discontent across the impoverished nation, roughly the size of Western Europe.

A Congolese government spokesman said the new taxes—which also raise levies on copper and nickel—would give the country’s 80 million people “ a fair share” of its natural resources.

Mining-industry groups lobbied against the law unsuccessfully and decried its potential impact on Thursday. The new taxes would hit cobalt producers like Swiss commodities giant Glencore PLC and potentially make the metal more expensive for automakers and technology companies trying to lockdown supplies.

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