The result of a joint venture between the China Nonferrous Metal Compagny (CNMC, 51%) and the Congolese state-owned mining operator Gécamines (49%), the mining company of Deziwa (Somidez) inaugurated its copper and cobalt refining unit on 15 January, located about 35 km east of the town of Kolwezi.
Construction of the plant, which began in May 2018, required an investment of $880 million, entirely financed by the Chinese partner. This is a major commitment to the Congolese mining industry, in contrast to Glencore’s recent withdrawal from the Mutanda copper and cobalt mine. Wang Tongzhou, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CNMC, for his part, welcomed the fact that « […] with its high level of automation, its modern equipment, its important ore processing and its optimal level of management, Somidez serves as an excellent model of Sino-Congolese cooperation in the mining sector ». According to Somidez, the Deziwa mine should initially produce 80,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year; volumes that are expected to double in a later expansion phase of the project. The mine operator’s management estimates the site’s reserves at 4.6 million tonnes of copper and 420,000 tonnes of cobalt respectively.
The framework conditions of the partnership between Gécamines and CNMC, established in line with the new mining code, should in any case benefit the Congolese side more than in the past. In addition to owning 49% of Somidez’s capital – a share significantly higher than that obtained by Gécamines in previous industrial partnerships – the plant should become the full property of the Congolese company « within nine to eleven years » (depending on market profitability). Depending on the reserves known to date, this would leave the equivalent of seven and nine years of Gécamines’ own production.
The only downside is the absence – very conspicuous – of the chairman of the board of directors of Gécamines, Albert Yuma Mulimbi, who is under house arrest in Kinshasa following a recent financial dispute between Gécamines and Israeli businessman Dan Gertler.