Glencore said to cut workers at Congo copper, cobalt mine

Glencore is cutting the workforce at its Mutanda copper and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo to lower costs before a possible shift in production methods, according to people familiar with the matter.

Labour unions met on Friday to discuss the job cuts, which will affect contractors and expatriate employees, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. No Congolese nationals are affected.

The layoffs come as Glencore considers a plan to stop mining oxide ores at Mutanda. Mutanda is the world’s largest and richest source of cobalt. The mining is considering investing in new methods to extract the metals from sulfide deposits.

The company is studying the economic viability of those deposits, given rising production costs and an uncertain political environment in Congo.

Relations between miners and the Congolese government have been strained following a revision to the mining code that tripled the royalties levied on cobalt.

Mutanda is a crucial source of employment and tax revenue for Congo. The cuts to the mine’s workforce were reported earlier by the Financial Times.

Late last year, Glencore halted exports of cobalt from its neighboring Katanga mine after ores were found to be radioactive. The miner last week said it expects a large part of its cobalt output from Katanga will only be sold next year.

Glencore shares have fallen 19% over the past year, valuing the company at $53bn.