According to the director of the country's mining registry, roughly ten new mines for metals critical to powering the green-energy transition could open in the next four years in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
About 500 of the nation’s mining permits are in advanced development and will soon lead to new projects for lithium and cobalt — battery metals driving the electric vehicle revolution — while mines for copper, tin, tantalum and tungsten will also be built, Jean Felix Mupande told a conference in the southeast city of Lubumbashi. Congo is already the world’s No. 1 cobalt producer and Africa’s biggest copper miner.
“The essential exploration has been done and either the pre-feasibility study has already been prepared or is finished in the form of a definitive feasibility study,” Mupande said on Thursday.
While the Congo's mining industry has been criticized for human rights violations and illicit mineral trading, high-grade ore deposits and recent commodity price increases have reignited interest in one of the world's poorest countries. Over the last year, one measure of lithium pricing has increased by more than fivefold, while cobalt prices have also increased.
A number of lithium resources are being searched in Congo's southeast, according to Mupande. That's where AVZ Minerals Ltd., based in Australia, is waiting for a final permit for its Manono project, which is thought to be the world's largest untapped hard rock lithium discovery.
There will also be new mines for tin ore, tantalum and tungsten around Toronto- and Johannesburg-listed Alphamin Resources Corp.’s massive tin ore project in eastern Congo, he said. “It’s a region that is very, very, very prospective and where there will soon be a proliferation of other mines,” Mupande said. Mupande said lack of financing was the “Achilles heel” of the local industry. He called on junior miners to team up with Congolese “who also aspire to be major mine operators, who hold a permit, with whom they can partner on certain prospects that are more promising, to develop new assets.” Mupande said a new venture with Canada’s AJN Resources Inc. — which will explore for gold near Barrick Gold Corp.’s Kibali mine and lithium near AVZ’s operation — could provide a model. That deal with a new state-controlled company called Congo Ressources SAU has been criticized by civil society groups for lacking transparency.
M. J. Kavanagh