Congo sees copper concentrate ban in full force by July, August
* Mines minister confirms ban will be fully enforced
* Says miners will get three months to allow them adjust
* Government to discuss power supply issue with mining firms
By Risa Maeda
TOKYO, May 17 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) expects its ban on the export of copper and cobalt concentrates to come into full force by July or August, as it presses mining companies to process and refine the metals within its borders, the mines minister said.
Congo, one of Africa's top copper producers, is not alone among emerging resource-rich nations hoping to discourage exports of concentrates, the intermediate products that feed smelters and refiners.
But the unexpected plan to ban the export of concentrates, announced last month, was questioned by many in the industry, who pointed to acute electricity shortages that already severely hamper processing activities there.
The powerful governor of Congo's copper-producing Katanga province Moise Katumbi has said he would not enforce the measure.
"I'm confirming the ban on copper concentrate," Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told Reuters on Friday on the sidelines of a conference in Tokyo.
Miners will be given a three-month grace period to allow them to adjust their operations, he said.
"It will be fully enforced by July or August in order to allow mining operators to re-adjust themselves. The government is fully aware that mining operators have electricity problems," the minister said.
Kabwelulu said the government would also hold talks with mining companies operating in the country to discuss the issue of power supplies.
The ban is unlikely to affect major producers like Freeport McMoRan and commodities trader Glencore, which already process the bulk of their copper inside the country.
Kazakh miner ENRC, which exports concentrate to be processed across the border in Zambia, is likely to be among the companies hardest hit by the measure. It is commissioning a new mine, Frontier, which will produce 40,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2013.
Other miners currently exporting concentrate include Mawson West and Tiger Resources.
Congo attempted to introduce similar rules in 2007 and again in 2010, but each time the decision was reversed.