Privately held Congolese company Buenassa is planning to build a copper-cobalt smelter in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with an investment of $350m, reported Bloomberg News.

The proposed plan, which is supported by the government, is expected to help formalise artisanal mining in the country.

Financial consulting company Delphos International has been selected to help Buenassa in raising financing for the proposed project, reported the news agency citing representatives from the two companies and the government.

Delphos International chairwoman Roya Rahmani said the Buenassa project “is very much aligned with the geopolitical goals of the United States”.

Rahmani noted that one of the main reasons the company decided to join the smelting project was the commitment by the US to fund a proposal between Congo and its neighbour Zambia to build an electric vehicle value chain.

Owned by Congolese businessman Eddy Kioni, Buenassa is working with state-owned company Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), which has rights to all hand-dug cobalt in Congo.

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Kioni was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The idea is to reverse the way the minerals and the wealth generated is controlled.”

Buenassa initially intended to produce 5,000 tonnes (t) of cobalt hydroxide and 30,000t of copper cathode, mostly using labourers who mine the minerals by hand.

Kioni, however, now believes that the project holds potential for expansion as a result of support from Delphos and the government.

Congo’s Minister of Industry Julien Paluku said the proposed smelter is expected to ensure “that all the cobalt from the artisanal sector can be concentrated at this refinery”.

Kioni said that Buenassa also plans to process industrial ore to ensure the smelter’s profitability. It is also in talks with an undisclosed US-based commodities trader to market the smelter’s output.

In July 2023, Reuters reported that DRC revoked the approval of a gold refinery in South Kivu. The refinery was being built by Congo Gold Raffinerie (CGR) in the eastern city of Bukavu.