Congo lifts ban on raw metal exports by Chinese joint venture

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Congo’s government has lifted an order requiring a joint venture of Chinese investors to stop exporting raw copper and cobalt, the mines ministry and the company said on Wednesday.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s mines minister Martin Kabwelulu last month ordered Sicomines, one of the country’s largest copper producers, to only export processed metals because they command higher values on international markets.

Kabwelulu said high-value exports were needed to pay off billions of dollars in infrastructure and mining investments by Sicomines’ majority shareholders Sinohydro Corp [SINOH.UL] and China Railway Group Limited as part of a minerals-for-infrastructure deal first signed in 2007.

Sicomines’ deputy director general Jean Nzenga told Reuters that the measure was lifted on Tuesday, allowing the company to export unprocessed copper and cobalt.

“Everything has returned to normal,” he said.

Kabwelulu’s chief of staff, Valery Mukasa, confirmed that the order had been lifted, but declined to elaborate.

Reports of the measure on Monday pushed copper prices higher because of its potential to reduce global supply.

Sicomines launched operations in November 2015 and almost immediately became one of the top copper producers in Congo, Africa’s top miner of the metal.

Reporting by Aaron Ross; editing by Alexander Smith