An aerial view of the processing plant at the Tenke Fungurume project in 2015. Credit: Freeport-McMoRan.
Using the IntelligenceMine database of our sister company Infomine, The Northern Miner compiled a list of the world’s five largest cobalt deposits in 2016, based on reserves.
1. Mutanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Glencore’s Mutanda copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) topped the list, weighing in with proven and probable reserves of 245 million tonnes of 1.52% copper and 0.6% cobalt, for a total of 3.7 million tonnes copper and 1.5 million tonnes cobalt.
The mine, which has been in operation since 2007, produces 200,000 tonnes of copper and 24,000 tonnes of cobalt a year.
In a bid to increase its exposure to the Africa, Glencore purchased the remaining 31% interest in the operation from the private investing firm Fleurette Group in February for US$922 million.
Mutanda is in the DRC portion of the central African copper belt, an arcuate-trending package of rocks known to contain some of the world’s largest sedimentary-hosted copper deposits. The deposits formed in the early Proterozoic, when metal-rich, oxidizing brines migrated into, and reacted with, reducing horizons in the region’s stratigraphy.
2. Tenke Fungurume, Democratic Republic of the Congo
China Molybdenum and BHR Partners’ Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine in the DRC ranks as the second-largest cobalt reserve in the world. The deposit contains 144.4 million proven and probable tonnes of 2.36% copper and 0.36% cobalt, for a total of 3.4 million tonnes of copper and 521,260 tonnes of cobalt.
The operation, 40 km east of Glencore’s Mutanda copper-cobalt mine, produced 215,940 tonnes of copper and 16,050 tonnes of cobalt in 2016.
International miners Freeport McMoRan and Lundin Mining recently sold their respective stakes in Tenke to the Chinese firms. China Molybdenum purchased a 56% stake in the operation from Freeport for US$2.65 billion in November last year, while Lundin sold its 24% interest to BHR Partners for US$1.14 billion in April this year. A Congolese state mining company owns the remaining 20% interest.
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