A $600m financing agreement between Shalina Resources, one of the largest producers of copper and cobalt and Trafigura, the commodity trading giant, is set to considerably increase supplies of high-grade cobalt hydroxide and copper cathode from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Demand for the metals, particularly cobalt – an essential component of batteries used in mobile phones and increasingly in electric vehicle batteries – has been rising steeply.
According to analysts, global refined cobalt production is expected to reach 223,000 tonnes in 2025, a rise of 38.5% from 2021. The DRC is the world’s largest supplier of cobalt, producing around 70% of the metal.
The financing agreement will enable Shalina Resources, through its DRC subsidiary, Chemaf, to complete construction of the fully mechanised Mutoshi mine and the solvent extraction-electrowinning (Sx-EW) processing plant in Kolwezi. It will also enable the expansion of the Etoile SX-EW processing plant in Lubumbashi. All sites are in DRC’s Katanga Province.
The agreement also covers the marketing by Trafigura of all the cobalt hydroxide produced from these assets operated by Chemaf, which is expected to continue until 2027.
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The project is expected to create local employment during the construction phase of the Mutoshi mine as well as during the operation phase with up to 1,000 jobs. In addition, the current local employment of around 1,000 Congolese at the Etoile mine will be secured for an additional 10-12 years, the firm says.
The Mutoshi mine, one of the largest cobalt and copper mines in the DRC, is expected to be producing by the third quarter of 2023.