Rumble in the jungle: Glencore, a hard-slugging mining giant, meets its match in Congo (The Economist – May 3, 2018)

A fight between two billionaires involves a coveted mineral, cobalt

IN THE mining world the bout has the drama of a heavyweight title fight. In one corner is Ivan Glasenberg, billionaire boss of Glencore, the world’s biggest commodities-trading firm. In the other is Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire accused by America of corruption related to his dealings with Joseph Kabila’s government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The prize is a battery mineral, cobalt, which Glencore produces in the DRC and whose value has almost tripled since the electric-vehicle revolution accelerated at the start of 2017. It will be a tough fight.

In the DRC Glencore is currently facing the potential loss of one of its biggest mines and sharply higher mining levies, as well as a costly lawsuit. “It’s a shakedown of Glencore,” says an analyst in London.

The clash between Messrs Glasenberg and Gertler, two former business partners, dates back to December, when the American government slapped sanctions on Mr Gertler, accusing him of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars through “opaque and corrupt” mining deals in the DRC, which he denies.

Glencore’s two mining companies in the country, Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) and Mutanda Mining, had been paying royalties to firms owned by Mr Gertler in recent years, as required by Gécamines, the country’s state mining company. In order to avoid violating the sanctions, Glencore says it has stopped those payments.

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