The Katanga Province hosts the Central African Copperbelt, which extends from Angola through the DRC into Zambia. The Copperbelt is one of the world’s greatest metallogenic provinces containing 34% of the world’s cobalt reserves and over 10% of the world’s copper reserves.

State run Gecamines (La Generale des Carrieres et des Mines) has attempted to improve its declining production figures from the copperbelt by promoting several ailing mines and projects to foreign investors. The company had an estimated copper production of 19,495 t in 2002 compared to 20,621 t in 2001. Gecamines holdings in the copperbelt contain the world’s biggest concentrations of cobalt and copper metal in the world. Gecamines was rated as the world’s lowest cost copper producer in the 1970’s, but is now considered one of the more expensive. Reserve estimates from the copperbelt total 55.5 Mt of copper and 3.6 Mt of cobalt. However, since 1993, production has stagnated with total capacity utilisation estimated at less than 10%.

During 2004 South Africa’s Metorex has reached an agreement with the Government of the DRC, La General des Carrieres et des Mines and Sentinelle Global Investments (Proprietary) Limited to mine and treat the high grade copper/cobalt Ruashi orebody and the Ruashi and Etoile stockpiles situated in the Katanga Province of the DRC, approximately 10 kilometres from Lubumbashi. The project will be implemented in two-phases. Phase 1 will mine and process the oxide stockpiles at Ruashi and Etoile with operations strategically separated between Zambia and the DRC to reduce capital cost exposure and mitigate risk. Phase 2 will involve the mining and processing by direct leaching of the high grade copper / cobalt oxide ore resources for the production of copper and cobalt metals on the Ruashi mine site on the outskirts of Lubumbashi. Mining is envisaged at a rate of 120,000 tons per month with the higher copper and cobalt recoveries resulting in an estimated 40,000 tons of copper metal and 3,000 tons of cobalt metal being produced annually.

In 2002 Société des Terrils de Lubumbashi (STL), a partnership formed between the Malta Forest Group, Outukumpu Mining Group (OMG) and Gécamines, produced 1,930 t of cobalt contained in white metal alloy during 2002, and 1,289 t of copper.

Anvil Mining owns and operates the Dikulushi copper-silver mine in the Katanga Province of the DRC, which it brought into production in October 2002. In the 2003 financial year the Dikulushi Mine produced 13,587 tonnes (29.95 million pounds) of copper and 1.2 million ounces of silver at a total cash cost of US$0.49 cents per pound (net of silver credits). The Company completed an expansion of the Dikulushi Mine at the beginning of October 2004 that is expected to increase production by approximately 50% to 20,000 tonnes of copper and 1.6 million ounces of silver per year.

The only other major copper producer, Sodimco also experienced a major drop in production, producing only 610t of copper in 2001. Sodimco is faced with deterioating machinery, bad trade debts as well as struggling to maintain its facilities at the Musoshi and Kinsenda mines, where reserves estimated at 2.4 Mt grading over 3% copper remain.

The Copperbelt hosts several tailing dumps that contain average grades higher than most hard rock mines globally. The role of SX-EW technology has made the exploitation of these tailings feasible, with American based OMG, Luxembourg’s Forrest Group and Gecamines spending $150 million on a smelter to process a 5 Mt stockpile containing 2% Co and 1.5% Cu.

First Quantum has several projects in the DRC, which have been suspended pending improvement of the security situation in the country. First Quantum has a 51% interest in the Likasi, Kingamiambo and Likasi tailings projects (Gecamines has the remaining 49%). First Quantum also has an interest (20%) in Anvil Mining NL that is evaluating the high grade Dikulushi copper – silver project located in the copperbelt. Dikulushi has been described as one of the world’s highest grade unexploited copper silver orebodies.

First Quantum has begun exploiting the Lonshi deposit that is located a mere 30km southeast of FQ’s Bwana Mkubwa copper facility in neighbouring Zambia. Resource estimates at Lonshi have been increased substantially and now stand at 295 000t of contained copper. Mining has begun at Lonshi with First Quantum aiming to stockpile 500 000t destined for processing at Bwana Mkubwa, where the plant is being expanded to cope with the increase in production capacity.

International Panorama Resources Corp. (IPR) of Canada has acquired a 51% share with Gecamines to reprocess copper/cobalt tailings from the Kambove and Kakanda mines. The Kakanda tailings project has an estimated reserve of 18.4 Mt grading at 1.22% copper and 0.15% cobalt. Solvent extraction electrowinning (SX-EW) technology will be utilised for the tailings operations. This operation has been downscaled by Panorama on the back of the security situation. Panorama were also investigating the Kakanda North open pit whose reserves were estimated at 11.3 Mt at 3.14% copper and 0.19% cobalt. Independent resource verification was being carried out by South African geoconsultants SRK.

Tenke Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Phelps Dodge, along with Gecamines own the Tenke – Fungurume copper – cobalt deposits, which has the potential to be the richest and lowest cost producers of cobalt and copper. Resources are estimated at 222 Mt grading at 4.59% copper and 0.36% cobalt and reserves at 93 Mt grading at 4.59% copper and 0.36% cobalt. By the end of 2008, Phelps Dodge intends to annually produce 100,000 tonnes of copper and 8,800 tonnes of cobalt. According to official reports, copper production in the region could rise to 400,000, sustaining levels for 20 years or more.

Organisations (4)
Kingamyambo Musonoi Tailings, Kababankola Mining Company, La Generale Des Carriers Et Des Mines, Societé de Developpement Industriel et Minier de Zaire :[ Add More ]

Facilities (7)
Dikulushi, Kakanda, Kamfundwa, Kipushi, Kolwezi, Lonshi, Tenke Fungurume

Participating Organisations
La Generale Des Carriers Et Des Mines

State run Gecamines is the country’s largest copper producer.