Dr Ralph Heath, MD, Earth and Environment, WSP Africa and Head of Mining Africa, said the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) needed to capitalize on demand for battery-related minerals, prioritize mining and export these minerals quickly.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to large quantities of sought-after minerals such as copper and cobalt which are vital to a thriving battery industry, as well as gold mines.
Heath explained that the two biggest challenges affecting the mining industry in DRC are the difficulty of increasing production, especially in copper and cobalt mining, and the lack of options to move minerals overseas.
Exports are usually shipped via Zambia to South African ports. However, deteriorating road conditions, coupled with long waiting times at the border, mean that export shipments are taking longer to reach ports.
There were often further delays at the port due to challenges with the South African port authority and general bureaucracy.
In addition, due to the degradation of South Africa’s railroads, the movement of goods in and through South Africa is mostly by road rather than rail.
However, road transport is neither cost-effective nor helpful in reducing carbon footprints, which adversely affects mining companies’ Scope 3 emissions, said Heath.
He explained that during the Covid-19 pandemic, delays were expected due to various safety protocols and precautions. However, most of the restrictions have been lifted, but the delays are still significant.
Therefore, the DRC must find other ways to transport the product, he added.
Currently, there are opportunities to export via Mozambique, Angola or the west coast of South Africa, which can ensure miners mitigate the challenges associated with exporting via South African highways and ports. Mobile Rock Crusher For Mining
In addition, while it is profitable to mine as quickly as possible, mining operations must also ensure the safety of all processes, including transportation.
“There has to be a more efficient way to move this commodity safely, rather than sitting at border posts or [stuck] on rails and roads,” said Heath.
He noted that it is generally safer to move products by rail than by road, and emphasized that Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries need to work together to overcome common challenges, especially in terms of logistics, as countries depend on each other. to export. product efficiently.
“A strategic global intervention or SADC is needed to ensure these logistics are more easily achieved.”
The Democratic Republic of the Congo can benefit greatly from increased demand for battery-related minerals due to global electrification trends.
Copper and cobalt have applications ranging from electric vehicle batteries to solar panels and wind turbines, Heath added.
As a result, the price of these commodities has increased, providing opportunities for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to attract foreign investment and stimulate job creation.
In addition, the development of local benefits in DRC will stimulate the mining industry and maintain more revenue in the country.
“In most African countries, it’s a conundrum where we export raw materials and then import them back in the form of finished products at enormous cost,” added Heath.
He noted that the DRC must balance the benefits of job creation and increased local taxes with foreign investment while the local economy grows, while ensuring increased mining does not damage the ecosystem and pollute the environment.
The environmental, social and governance components of mining have captured the attention of investors, and mining companies need to ensure that at every stage of their operations they understand their impact on the environment and surrounding communities and take action to mitigate negative impacts.
While electrification or a green transition will benefit countries with important mineral reserves, mining operations in those countries will also need to shift to cleaner and greener production methods.
Heath concluded that the shift to environmentally conscious practices could have a positive impact on a company’s mining capacity and efficiency, and while shareholders expect and demand more environmentally conscious practices, this is a positive development to note in the mining business going forward.