Democratic Republic of Congo’s state miner Gecamines expects to increase copper production by over 40 percent this year as new machinery comes online, the company said on Friday.
Gecamines plans to produce 24,000 tonnes of copper this year and 50,000 tonnes next year, interim director-general Jacques Kamenga told Reuters. This is up from about 17,000 tonnes in 2015, according to central bank figures.
The increase in production will be driven by a new concentrator at the company’s Kambove site, new electrical lines and a machine to crush ore at its Kamatanda mine, Kamenga said.
“We have all the mechanisms in place to reach that production level,” he added.
The company’s output peaked at close to 500,000 tonnes in 1986, but then fell during decades of political upheaval, mismanagement and asset sales. In recent years, investments by companies like Glencore and Freeport-McMoRan have helped make Congo Africa’s top copper producer.
Congo, the world’s fifth-biggest copper producer, produced 990,000 tonnes of the metal last year, down from 1.03 million tonnes in 2014.
In June, Gecamines announced a modernisation plan for 2016-2020 that will see the company invest $717 million in operations in a bid to increase production to over 100,000 tonnes per year.
However, similar promises have failed to pan out. Gecamines is some $1.6 billion in debt and Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo sharply criticized the company in May for poor leadership and a lack of transparency, charges the company rejects.
Kamenga also said negotiations are ongoing with China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company (CNMC) over major investments the company is supposed to make in two factories, including one at Deziwa, Gecamines’ flagship project.
Congo’s copper production surpassed 1 million tonnes for the first time in 2014 but slumping commodity prices caused output to fall about 20 percent in the first quarter of this year.