WINDHOEK, Namibia Moise Katumbi, the powerful governor of the Democratic Republic of the Congos (DRCs) Katanga province, home to the countrys copper heartlands, says the province will defy a central government directive to ban exports of copper and cobalt concentrates.
Opposing Kinshasa, the countrys capital, Katumbi rejected a directive signed by mines minister Martin Kabwelulu and finance minister Patrice Kitebi Kibol Mvul that bans exports of unrefined copper and cobalt after 90 days, arguing that he was not consulted (amm.com, April 18).
It subsequently emerged that some cobalt hydroxide was also being stopped at border crossings.
"As the government of Katanga, we reject this decision, and we will continue exporting. Congo doesnt have enough electricity to process the finished product," Katumbi said. "When you have partners, you consult with them. If you dont have enough electricity, you cant process the concentrates, and as the state we need to furnish electricity to miners. They will continue to export concentrates until there is enough electricity."
Kabwelulu and Katumbi had been set to meet over the weekend in an attempt to settle their differences, according to DRC media reports. It is unclear if that meeting took place.
Katumbi also warned that the government will lose income if the ban is enforced.
"This is a clear power play by Katumbi, intended to demonstrate his strength to (DRC president Joseph) Kabila and buttress his local support base in Katanga, where efforts to resist federal oversight always go down well," Tom Wilson, head of strategic services for consultancy Africa Practice, told AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.
If he wishes, Katumbi could allow the exports to continue, despite the directive from the central government in Kinshasa, Wilson added.
"Although the customs and security officials controlling the border posts with Zambia should technically defer to Kinshasa, Katanga is a long way from the capital and Katumbi probably has the power to impose or ignore this ban as he sees fit," he said, adding that tug of war between Katanga and Kinshasa will have minimal effect on mining investors.
A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.