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DRC allocates $3.5M to Buenassa for hydrometallurgical plant in Lualaba

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In a move to formalize artisanal mining, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government has allocated $3.5 million to Buenassa for the development of a new hydrometallurgical plant in the province of Lualaba. Buenassa, a privately held Congolese firm specializing in trading domestically beneficiated minerals from artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) feedstock, is working on a $350 million copper-cobalt plant, as reported by Bloomberg in September 2023.

The initial funding, awarded through the DRC government’s Fonds de Promotion de l’Industrie (FPI), will support the crucial first phase of the refinery complex’s development. The planned production includes 30,000 tons per year of copper cathodes and 5,000 tons per year of cobalt sulfate, with commercial operations slated to commence in 2027. Buenassa is in talks with Entreprise Générale du Cobalt (EGC) for ASM material supply and a U.S.-based trading company for product marketing in the United States.

This funding marks a significant step toward realizing a project that could impact cobalt market dynamics, potentially increasing production from ASM mining and introducing more EGC-governed material into the cobalt supply chain.

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The prospect of a U.S.-backed and vertically integrated operation in the DRC raises questions about potential future cooperation between the United States and the DRC. In January 2023, an MOU was signed by the USA, DRC, and Zambia with intentions to facilitate the development of an integrated value chain for EV battery production in Central Africa. Furthermore, the USA International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) plans to increase its investment in the mining and infrastructure sectors of African countries, including the DRC, from $750 million in 2023 to $1.4 billion, as announced by Deputy CEO Nisha Biswal in February 2023.

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