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Gecamines Aims to Boost Germanium Production in Congo

Gecamines, the state-owned copper and cobalt producer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, revealed its plans to increase germanium production to 30 metric tons annually at a nearly completed plant. Chairman Guy Robert Lukama announced on Thursday that the facility, located at Big Bill slag in Lubumbashi, will commence operations in September. By processing waste material from the tailings site, Gecamines anticipates germanium availability in the market as early as October.

Gecamines Congo

Gecamines

China’s recent announcement of export restrictions on certain gallium and germanium products, citing national security concerns, has raised alarm in the semiconductor and defense industries. These sectors heavily rely on these metals for products ranging from computer chips to fiber-optic cables. Lukama highlighted the potential impact of China’s move, stating that it could result in market scarcity, potentially increasing the value of Gecamines’ uncommitted germanium.

While no customers have been secured yet, Lukama expressed confidence in the growing interest surrounding Gecamines’ germanium. The company foresees an uptick in demand and expects to enter into sales contracts starting in 2024. Lukama emphasized the cost-effectiveness of the Big Hill slag plant, which will also process copper, cobalt, and silver. Recovering metals from tailings proves to be a cheaper method.

Germanium

As the world’s leading cobalt supplier and Africa’s largest copper producer, Congo holds strategic importance in the mining industry. Gecamines aims to explore the feasibility of processing gallium and remains open to additional investments to recover germanium from old mining sites should global demand solidify.

Lukama shed light on the historical treatment of germanium, explaining that it was previously considered nonessential and consequently discarded as tailings. However, if demand surges, Gecamines is prepared to allocate additional resources toward restoring those mines and converting them into viable projects.