Congo mine closures would cause economic and social crisis, minister says – by Helen Reid and Hereward Holland (Reuters U.S. – April 17, 2020)

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining minister warned mine shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic would trigger a “catastrophic” economic and social crisis in the country, as he reported a 15% slump in cobalt exports in the first quarter.

Congo, the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, is highly reliant on mining, with the industry contributing 32% of its GDP and 95% of export revenue in 2018, according to the central bank.

“The DRC would not be able to withstand an abrupt halt in the mining production of the flagship projects operating there if they invoked force majeure,” Mines Minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni wrote in a ministry analysis seen by Reuters.

Exports of cobalt, a metal used in batteries, fell by 15.2% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, he said in the memo, while copper exports increased by 12.8%.

“As a result (of mine shutdowns), we risk moving from a health crisis to an economic crisis, which would in turn lead to a social crisis,” Samsoni wrote.

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