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Congo mines minister seeks to cancel artisanal cobalt monopoly -Breaking


© Reuters. Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, DRC’s minister of mining, speaks at African Mining Indaba 20,22 in Cape Town (South Africa), May 11th, 2022. REUTERS/Shelley Christians/Files

By Helen Reid

CAPE TOWN, (Reuters) – Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, Democratic Republic of Congo Mines Minister is trying to repeal a decree granting Entreprise Generale du Cobalt a monopoly on artisanal cobalt in her country. She told Reuters Wednesday.

EGC was set up to process and buy artisanal Cobalt. Officially launched in December 2019, it officially launched March 31st last year. However, EGC has yet to buy any cobalt ore, which is then used for electric vehicle batteries.

After the Congo’s mines, the cobalt is sourced from the Congo’s artisanal miners who use rudimentary methods to dig the cobalt.

EGC is a unit of the state-owned mining company Gecamines. EGC’s operations are currently in limbo due to political fighting between departments and leadership changes at Gecamines.

Kalambayi was asked her opinion on EGC. “I wouldn’t claim I am against it, but one thing remains certain: Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC) got the monopoly, which is in violation of the laws.

EGC does not intend to be dismantled, the minister of mines stated. She merely wants to end its legal monopoly, which she claimed is necessary so that companies are able to purchase artisanal cobalt.

EGC failed to respond immediately to an emailed inquiry for comment about the minister’s comments.

Kalambayi spoke on the sidelines at the Mining Indaba conference, Cape Town. She said that the decision to repeal the decree will be reviewed by both the Congo’s ministerial Council and the prime minister. However, she did not specify a date.

It is difficult for both the government to bring artisanal miner into the formal economic system.

Kalambayi claimed that Congolese law allows mining companies to transfer a small portion of their licensure to artisans, and that her support for firms working to formalize the sector was strong.

Kalambayi stated that “Formalization is a priority because the Republic loses out” and not just in terms unclaimed taxes but also in terms mined products being smuggled out.

Congo does not allow artisanal digging. However, it is legal in a Zone d’Exploitation Artistale – an artisanal mining area – however, this practice often occurs elsewhere because there aren’t enough ZEAs with viable deposits.

Kalambayi responded to a question about the interests of politicians in the sector of artisanal mines, in which certain politicians have artisanal-mining cooperatives as their property or receive monetary benefits.