Fastmarkets reported that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has banned the export of copper and cobalt concentrate. Fastmarkets confirmed with three companies operating copper and cobalt mines in DRC that they all received the notice, although the effective date of the order is not mentioned and trucks carrying the concentrates could still pass through the border as of last week.
Roskill noted that the DRC has frequently threatened the cobalt market with a ban on the export of unprocessed copper and cobalt concentrates and ores. The government attempted to introduce similar bans in 2007, 2010, and 2013; each time the decision was reversed. In 2013, after reversing the decision, the government put heightened taxes on cobalt concentrate exports in place.
Although an export ban could theoretically be used to stimulate more production of higher-value refined cobalt in the DRC, Roskill said, the country lacks the processing capacity and associated infrastructure to achieve this without considerable investment.
With copper and cobalt revenues contributing so much to DRC GDP and local economies, it is highly unlikely that any ban will stick, Roskill said, adding that further changes to royalty rates are more likely. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi has previously suggested that the government may consider a “renegotiation” of mining licenses and contracts.
If a ban were to stick, it would have some impact on the cobalt market, Roskill said. Almost all cobalt concentrate exports from the DRC are to China. These have declined significantly over the recent years (with most Chinese importers now favoring intermediate feedstocks), but the quantities are still considerable. The DRC exported around 50kt of gross weight Co concentrate to China in 2020 (96% of global exports). If this material was, even temporarily, removed from the supply chain, there would be knock-on effects, Roskill said.