US risked Chinese battery monopoly had Gertler dispute escalated – by David McKay ( – June 19, 2018)

GLENCORE’S workaround the US sanctions placed on Dan Gertler, the Congo’s mining tycoon, was a remarkable piece of pragmatism on behalf of the Swiss miner and minerals trader, but it may have also been informed by a broader concern.

The concern is that in failing to settle the matter, the assets from which Gertler was demanding the resumption of royalties – the Mutanda and Kamoto Copper mines – would have been expropriated by the Congolese government with whom Gertler is close.

It’s quite likely then, given China’s obvious comfort in operating in the Congo, that its companies may have bought the mines and taken control of a large slug of world cobalt (and copper) supply that is crucial to battery manufacture. Controlling the cobalt market would give the Chinese unprecedented control over the world automotive sector.

Glencore has said the ‘circumvention’ of US sanctions was a matter discussed with both Swiss and US authorities. What isn’t known is whether Glencore made the broader market risks of losing the assets plain to the authorities. As a mining company CEO acknowledged: “I can imagine the US authorities being very partial to that argument”.

Said Exane BNP Paribas in a recent note: “It seems to us that this situation raises the stakes beyond the fate of DRC and its political situation.

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