* Copper output fell 3.3 pct to 995,805 T in 2015
* Sharpest fall in Q4, Katanga suspension partly to blame
* Gold production rose 30 pct to 25,516 kg in 2015
By Aaron Ross
KINSHASA, Feb 10 Copper production in Democratic
Republic of Congo dropped for the first time in six years in
2015 and this year could be another tough one as low commodity
prices continue to bite, the Central African country's chamber
of mines said on Wednesday.
Output dropped 3.3 percent in Africa's top copper producer
to 995,805 tonnes from 1.03 million tonnes in 2014, the first
time production fell since the global economic downturn in 2009.
The sharpest fall was in the fourth quarter when production
slumped 12 percent year-on-year, in part due to the suspension
of some production at miner and trader Glencore's
Katanga Mining unit, the industry group said in its annual
The mine, one of the largest in Congo, producing 113,674
tonnes of copper in the first nine months of 2015, is not
expected to reopen until mid-2017.
Congo's economy is highly dependent on the mining sector,
which accounts for about 20 percent of GDP. Copper and cobalt
alone accounted for 79 percent of the country's exports in the
first half of 2015, according to the Central Bank.
Benchmark copper fell 25 percent last year, a slump
that the chamber said could continue. Indeed, copper prices are
expected to hit their lowest average in more than a decade this
year as global supply outruns demand, a Reuters survey of metal
analysts showed last month.
The government scaled back its 2015 growth estimate to 7.7
percent from over 10 percent because of low metals prices. It
has said Katanga Mining's 18-month suspension will cost it more
than $200 million in tax revenues this year.
The government expects growth to rebound to 9 percent this
year while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts 7.3
The country's copper-producing southeast only receives about
half the electricity it needs. The government is backing a
series of projects to boost supply but the chamber said
"inadequate and highly non-transparent management" of the sector
led to "little progress" in 2015.
The chamber's report, however, cited causes for optimism,
noting that new mines started commercial production in 2015 and
several major projects that are expected to come online in the
Ivanhoe Mines' Kamoa project, slated to begin
production in 2018, is thought to be the world's largest
untouched high-grade copper discovery.
In the same report, the chamber of mines said gold
production rose 30 percent to an estimated 25,516 kg, partly
because of stronger-than-expected production at Randgold
Resources' Kibali mine. Congo's industrial gold
production stood at near zero in 2011.
Production is likely to rise further as Randgold, AngloGold
Ashanti and Banro Corporation continue to ramp
up output at large mines they have opened in the last five
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Edward McAllister and