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1 May 2020

Helen Reid and Hereward Holland, Reuters

DRC: Mining minister warns against the social and economic impact of mine closures during the Covid-19 pandemic

"Congo mine closures would cause economic and social crisis, minister says", 17 April 2020.

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...Congo...is highly reliant on mining, with the industry contributing 32% of its GDP and 95% of export revenue in 2018...“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...“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,”...

Disruption caused by the pandemic has so far driven Chemaf to shut its Usoke copper-cobalt processing plant, while Ivanhoe has suspended operations at its Kipushi copper mine project. Restrictions on movement in countries through which Congo’s metals are transported could also trigger declarations of force majeure...Zambia, a key transit country for copper and cobalt, has mandated all returning residents and foreigners to be quarantined for 14 days...truck drivers would have to go into quarantine on arrival...

Depressed copper prices could also slow the development of new mines in Congo...Ivanhoe Mines Executive Co-Chairman Robert Friedland said the recent copper price decline has not affected the development schedule for Kamoa-Kakula...On April 2 the company said it had locked down the Kamoa-Kakula project with all key personnel on site in order to ensure operational continuity and minimise the impact of the pandemic on the development schedule.