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Chinese mines in Congo ordered to stop exporting cheap metals – China’s latest business and technology news

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summary of the top news in Chinese business and technology for October 10, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.
1 week ago
Lucas Niewenhuis

Reuters reports that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has ordered the Sicomines joint venture to stop exporting cheap, unprocessed copper and cobalt, in order to increase profits and faster pay off loans the DRC took at the start of the project.

What’s going on in the DRC?

  • In 2007, the central african country announced that it had reached an innovative “minerals-for-infrastructure” deal with China. Sinohydro Corp and China Railway Group Limited would build $3 billion in infrastructure, in exchange for a $3.2 billion mining project that supplies minerals to China, including some vital to battery production, such as copper and cobalt.
  • Sicomines, short for Sino–Congolaise des Mines, as the company is known in the French-speaking DRC, is the joint venture affected in this case. Bloomberg notes that Sicomines is 68 percent owned by Sinohydro and China Railway.
  • The DRC has one of the world’s most lopsided ratios of resource wealth to GDP, so the government had to take loans from China to build and operate the mines. The profits of Sicomines are set to pay off the loans.
  • The DRC’s Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu wrote to Sicomines Director-General Sun Ruiwen on September 11 to complain that Sicomines was exporting unprocessed metals, rather than processing them in-country and adding value.
  • Reuters notes a potential reason for why Sicomines didn’t bother to process the metals in-country: The DRC “lacks enough electricity to process the minerals domestically,” and “Sinohydro and China Railway Group are also financing a $660 million hydroelectric plant to reduce the power deficit, which forces miners to rely on generators and costly imports from neighboring Zambia.”

By Lucas Niewenhuis
Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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