April 23, 2024

Official: US frequently discusses cobalt, copper with Congo Jegamines – March 29, 2024 at 11:12 am

A senior State Department official told Reuters the U.S. continues to speak with Democratic Republic of Congo's state-owned mining company Gecamines. Washington seeks to deepen ties with major cobalt and copper suppliers on the African continent.

Why is this important?

China's aggressive investments in Congo, Zambia and other African countries with vast reserves of minerals used to make electric vehicles and other electronics have long raised concerns in Washington.

Jose Fernandez, the US State Department's undersecretary for economic development, energy and environment, said in an interview this week that discussions with Gecamines include supply agreements and possible new mines or other projects the company is considering. Interviews happen on average every four to six weeks, he said.

The Mineral Security Partnership (MSP), a multinational collaboration of a dozen countries and the European Union investing in global supply chains, announced an agreement in February with Gecamines and Japan's JOGMEC. Those conversations resulted in the deal, Fernandez said.

Key quotes

“Whether it's China or another country, it's not good to have one supplier,” Fernandez said.

“(Host countries) investors don't want an investment system that brings in their own workers and doesn't clean up their environmental footprint. They've already experienced that, and they don't want it.”

Fernandez declined to comment on whether the US government wants to buy all or part of Canadian mining company First Quantum's Zambian assets. First Quantum is looking for new sources of cash after a dispute with the Panamanian government led to the closure of one of the company's main copper mines.

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Fernandez said the US continues to work with Zambia and Congo on mining and regulatory frameworks.

Despite Washington's efforts in recent years, the United States lags behind China in accessing minerals on the African continent needed to make products such as electric vehicle batteries and solar panels.

Washington's goal is not to offset China's influence in Africa's vital mineral sector, but to diversify its own supply chains and encourage African partners to improve their mining standards, Fernandez said.