DRC to Export Copper via Lobito Corridor

During the Mining Indaba which was held in Cape Town from the 5 to 8 February 2024, Trafigura announced that it will partner with Ivanhoe Mines to export copper from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via the #LobitoCorridor.

Initially, some 10,000 tonnes of copper is expected to be shipped during the initial phase in 2024. The copper comes from Kamoa-Kakula mine which is a JV between Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining. The transport contract is for a six-year term and is extensible. Ivanhoe Mining has been allocated between 120,000 and 240,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

The copper will be shipped by rail to the Lobito seaport on the Atlantic coast in Angola. By 2025, the carrying capacity will have been upgraded to 240,000 tonnes per year.

“The Lobito Corridor is fast becoming one of the most important trade routes for vital copper metal in the world. The transformative economic corridor will unlock more copper projects due to the lower logistical costs. Cheaper logistics increase the amount of economically recoverable copper across the Copperbelt, as cut-off grades can be lowered.”

Ivanhoe Founder and Executive Co-Chair Robert Friedland

It is worth recalling that US State Secretary Antony Blinken visited Angola in January 2024 and underscored the support of Washington for the critical #LobitoCorridor infrastructure project. The Lobito Corridor is one of the #EconomicCorridors which will unlock and facilitate access to #CriticalMinerals in Central and Southern Africa. It is designated as a flagship project under the US Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment (#PG2I).

As part of the plan, US has committed to provide financing to the consortium led by Trafigura to build and operate the 1,300 kilometers of rail. Eventually, the railroad will be extended to the Tanzanian seaport of Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean. In addition to upgrading and extending railway tracks, the scope of the project entails the procurement of 35 locomotives and 1,500 wagons.

The Trafigura-led consortium has signed a 30-year concession to upgrade and operate the Lobito Rail Corridor as well as to operate the bulk seaport at Lobito where the minerals will be loaded onto ships. The total cost of the project is estimated to be more around USD 1 billion with Washington contributing at least USD 250 million in financing via the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

Members of the Lobito Atlantic Railway Consortium include:

  • Trafigura
  • Mota-Engil
  • Vecturis
  • Lobito Bulk Shipping Port

“This project [Lobito Corridor] has genuinely transformative potential for this nation [Angola], for this region and — I would argue — for the world.”

US State Secretary Antony Blinken

Historically, the British built the 1,700-km long trailway during the colonial era. From 1975-2002 in the midst of the civil war in Angola, a section of the Angolan railroad was damaged and closed down. The Congolese section not much better with a derailment occurring almost daily. Then in 2015, China rebuilt part of the rail line, but traffic struggled to take off with one single train service every fortnight.

Previously, the mineral was transported mostly by trucks using sometimes dilapidated roads to congested seaports in Tanzania, Mozambique or South Africa. When operationalized, the #LobitoCorridor will slash transit time to under 36 hours which represents a huge improvement compared to road transport which necessitated at least 10 days.