EXCLUSIVE Glencore to restart operations at Mutanda copper and cobalt mine in 2022
Commodities trader and miner Glencore (GLEN.L) plans to restart operations at Mutanda – the world’s largest cobalt mine that also produces large quantities of copper – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo next year, a a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Glencore, one of the world’s largest copper producers and the largest producer of cobalt, said in February that the process of resuming production at Mutanda was underway, but did not give a specific date.
Copper is a vital material for the energy and construction industries and it is also very present in the raw material mix for the energy transition. Cobalt hydroxide is a key material for the growing electric vehicle industry.
With copper at record highs above $ 10,000 per tonne and cobalt metal up nearly 40% to around $ 45,000 per tonne since the start of 2021, the market’s attention has turned to Mutanda – a facility that has been taking care of upkeep and maintenance since November 2019.
Restarting production from Mutanda could help ease shortages in the copper and cobalt markets that analysts expect next year, potentially capping further price hikes.
Mutanda produced 103,200 tonnes of copper and 25,100 tonnes of cobalt hydroxide in 2019 compared to 199,000 tonnes and 27,300 tonnes respectively in 2018. It has five copper production lines and three cobalt hydroxide lines.
It is not known how many lines could be restarted in the next 12 months.
The process of recruiting workers for the operation is underway, a source familiar with the matter said.
Last year, Glencore’s contribution to global copper supplies was nearly 1.3 million tonnes in an estimated market of around 24 million tonnes, while for cobalt the figure was 27,400 tonnes, or almost 20% of the world total.
Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg decided in August 2019 to suspend Mutanda. He said falling cobalt prices, rising costs and rising taxes had hurt the economic viability of the mine.
However, since then significantly higher prices for cobalt have made costs and taxes less of an issue.
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