Congo court appoints temporary administrator to run China Moly's Tenke mine

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Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine 110 km (68 miles) northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo's copper-producing south, File. REUTERS/Jonny Hogg

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DAKAR, March 1 (Reuters) - A court in Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday appointed a temporary administrator from state miner Gecamines to run China Molybdenum's (603993.SS) Tenke Fungurume mine amid a dispute between the shareholders over reserves of copper and cobalt.

The dispute started last August when Congo's government announced it had formed a commission to reassess the reserves and resources at the mine, known as TFM, in order to "fairly lay claim to (its) rights".

Several Gecamines officials were appointed to the commission. China Moly, which has an 80% stake in TFM, Congo's second-biggest copper mine, said at the time it was confident the issue would be resolved. Congo's government has made few public comments about the matter since.

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The order on Monday from the Tribunal of Commerce in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi showed Gecamines, which owns 20% of TFM, petitioned judges in December to strip the mine's leadership of decision-making powers and appoint a temporary administrator.

The court appointed Sage Ngoie Mbayo, who Gecamines recently named as its representative for the mine, as administrator for six months. He will take over management responsibilities from China Molybdenum-appointed chief executive, Jun Zhou.

The court tasked Ngoie with "reconciling the two partners on the points of divergence, namely access to technical information".

China Moly had no immediate comment. A lawyer for TFM's China Moly-appointed leadership, Azarias Ruberwa, told Reuters that TFM planned to appeal the court's order.

The creation of the government commission in August was part of a broader set of moves against Chinese investors, who control about 70% of Congo's mining sector, according to the country's chamber of mines.

The government has also said it is reviewing a $6 billion "infrastructure-for-minerals" deal from 2008 with Chinese investors that Congolese politicians and activists have criticised as skewed in favour of the Chinese.

Congo is the world's top producer of cobalt, a metal used in electric batteries, and Africa's leading miner of copper.

Tenke Fungurume produced around 182,600 tonnes of copper and 15,400 tonnes of cobalt in 2020, the last year for which complete data is available.

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Reporting by Aaron Ross, Editing by Chris Reese and Ed Osmond

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Thomson Reuters

West & Central Africa correspondent investigating human rights abuses, conflict and corruption as well as regional commodities production, epidemic diseases and the environment, previously based in Kinshasa, Abidjan and Cairo.