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Chinese mining companies are controlling day-to-day cobalt operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remotely, a new paper authored by employees of one of China’s biggest miners has revealed.
Cited by the South China Morning Post, the paper says that thanks to digital technology, engineers working for North Mining Limited, or Norine, can control and monitor on-site cobalt mining operations in the DRC on their phones or laptops in Beijing.
The company, which is part of the Norinco conglomerate, is one of the biggest investors in the DRC, securing vital minerals for the EV industry, in which China is already a leader.
Yet the country appears to feel certain insecurity with regard to the supply of critical minerals and metals, including cobalt, possibly because it has no local reserves of the metal. This makes the DRC a key source of cobalt.
“If the overseas supply of upstream raw material is cut off, the advantages of mid-and-downstream products will no longer exist,” a government-commissioned study revealed.
“Under the background of increasing tension between major powers and the West’s attempt to ‘de-Sinicise’ the global industrial chain, it can severely restrict the development of strategic emerging industries in our country,” the research also concluded.
Because of this worry, and the recent policy changes of the DRC’s government involving higher taxes and new laws to regulate mining, real-time communication between headquarters in China and mines in the DRC appear to have become crucial for the success of the mining operations in the central African country.
Indeed, another Chinese miner recently locked horns with the Congolese government in the form of state-owned miner Gecamines, which blocked CMOC Group’s share of the cobalt output from the Tenke Fungurume mine.
The dispute is based on the government’s allegations that the Chinese miner understated the reserves of the deposit in order to pay less in royalties.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com