Rumblings from the Congo offer peace and profits

01 February 2006 | 03:18 Code : 7779 Geoscience events
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If there is one country in the whole of Africa that has doggedly encapsulated both the worst and...
WHEN it comes to Africa, its all been said ad nausea. The potential is massive, the issues multiple and varied. While fans of the continent can readily point to a crop of new mine developments as proof of the fallacy of lumping together countries north of South Africa into the 'too hard basket', it's the positives emerging from the darkness of the Democratic Republic of Congo that would be particularly heartening. Focus Feature by Michael Quinn
If there is one country in the whole of Africa that has doggedly encapsulated both the worst and best of the continent, it's without doubt the Democratic Republic of Congo – an alluring and dangerous blend of unparalleled prospectivity and bloody anarchy.However the Congo is reportedly looking a distinctly better proposition from all angles, with recent political initiatives said to offer the best prospects for lasting peace in many years, if not decades. Late last year the country had its first free and democratic vote since the early-60s, with a referendum to approve a draft constitution said to have attracted very higher voter turnout. Elections are now to be held in the next six months. Investment friendly mining legislation was drawn up in 2003, and there's reportedly been a major influx of multi-lateral organisations into the country in recent years – with both the World Bank and IMF back on the ground after absences of around 10 years.
There's also the largest contingent of UN peacekeepers anywhere in the world, a situation that can probably be viewed two ways depending whether you have a glass half-full or a glass half-empty perspective.The point is that while it still clearly early days, there's a major international engagement with the DRC at play in the name of helping the country sort itself out.From a mining and exploration perspective, all this spells good news, especially for first movers like dual Australian-Canadian listed copper miner Anvil Mining.Anvil has been hard at it in the DRC for over 10 years, having first produced copper in 2002 following its initial arrival in the country in the mid-90s. After producing around 20,000 tonnes of copper over the past 12 months, it's now confident it's on the road to annual production from the DRC of 100,000tpa of copper – well before the end of decade. Later this month, Anvil will take some 30 fund managers and investors on a site tour to assess first-hand the company's current and emerging projects – seen by CEO Bill Turner as symptomatic of the increased interest in both Anvil and the DRC in general.Other first movers seemingly well positioned include First Quantum, which recently re-affirmed its confidence in the country by lobbing a $C190 million bid for would-be DRC copper miner Adastra, and significant Canadian-domiciled gold explorer Banro Corp.
Amongst the big boys, BHP Billiton has an option over diamonds in the country via an alliance with Gravity Diamonds, while the traditionally more adventurous South African miners and explorers like AngloGold and De Beers have also flagged their interest.
More significantly, North American copper powerhouse Phelps Dodge is putting in place the structures needed to start development of the Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt project.Tenke holds a resource of 547 million tonnes grading 3.5% copper and 0.27% cobalt, with a draft feasibility study envisaging an open pit mining operation producing 100,000tpa of copper cathode and 8000tpa of cobalt cathode.It is understood work on the project will significantly increase should the elections later this year confirm the improving socio-political situation.It's unlikely to be an orphan on that score

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