(Bloomberg) — Mining investors are stampeding back into a region many had seemed determined to leave. Straddling the border of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a vast forested area roughly the size of Portugal contains one of the world’s richest caches of minerals: copper for wires and cables, and cobalt for rechargeable batteries.
At the intersection of the two African nations, trucks queue for about 53 kilometers (33 miles) along a cratered road snaking past giant mounds of mining residue and villagers selling stacks of watermelons — most of them carrying metals vital to the global energy transition.
But despite the lucrative resources, western mining companies have for years put more effort into trying to get out of, than into, the central African copperbelt, increasingly frustrated by a litany of policy u-turns and cash grabs. Suddenly that’s no longer the case. Existing investors are doubling down, and others — like giant BHP Group — are sniffing around the region for the first time in years.
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. finally approved a billion-dollar expansion in Zambia, while Barrick Gold Corp., which considered selling its Zambian mine and is an outspoken critic of the Congolese government, is hunting for new projects in both countries. Anglo American Plc announced a new joint venture in Zambia on Thursday.
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