THE Democratic Republic of Congo’s Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), a company established to buy up metal from the country’s artisanal miners, could start operating in three months, said Bloomberg News.
The newswire cited Eric Kalala, CEO of DRC’s Gecamines, which is the main shareholder in EGC, as saying pilot sites would be launched around Kolwezi. “The problem before was that we didn’t have any land, but that problem has been solved,” said Kalala. He was commenting on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The company doesn’t yet have an offtake agreement for the electric-vehicle battery metal, which will be dug by small-scale, artisanal miners working with EGC-approved cooperatives, said Bloomberg News.
Congo founded EGC in 2019 to formalise artisanal cobalt mining, which employs hundreds of thousands of people but is infamous for dangerous working conditions and child labour. The company has struggled to get off the ground amid disagreements about its structure and weak cobalt prices due to oversupply, said Bloomberg News.
Congo exported 139,800 tons of cobalt last year, a 21% increase from 2022. Total world production was about 190,000 tons in 2022, according to US Geological Survey estimates cited by Bloomberg News.
Commodity trader Trafigura Group is still EGC’s “main partner” in the project, but “bilateral discussions” continue with other parties, Kalala said.
“Trafigura remains committed to its commercial agreement with EGC and delivering on the pressing need to kick-start the large-scale formalization” of the artisanal and small-scale cobalt sector, Trafigura told the newswire.