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Week in Review: Minerals, Mayhem and Mediation

Vehicles sit gridlocked on Queen Nandi Drive after widespread looting in a commercial hub of Durban on July 13, 2021. AFP.

With most strategic mineral exports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo shipped to China through the port of Durban in South Africa, the recent closure of the N3 highway that connects the port to Johannesburg presents a potentially costly disruption to vital supply chains. Authorities were forced to close a portion of the highway on Wednesday due to the escalating violent protests in South Africa, prompting truckers to find alternate routes that will delay deliveries to the port. The Port of Durban is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest and busiest port, with a lot of goods heading to China, South Africa’s largest trading partner. (BLOOMBERG)

China’s third-largest cobalt refinery Jinchuan Group will soon increase its production output of nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) to meet surging demand for electric vehicle batteries in China and around the world. The state-owned Jinchuan Group owns four copper/cobalt mines in the DRC and another in South Africa and highlights the growing dominance of Chinese public companies in both the extraction sector in Africa and the more critical processing sector. China now controls around 80% of this market. Jinchuan plans to more than double its production capacity from 30,000 tons per year of NCM to 120,000 tons per year. (ARGUS MEDIA)

China is providing an emergency donation of 400,000 COVID vaccines to Tunisia to help the North African country stem a surge in infections and deaths brought on by the rapidly spreading Delta variant, according to Ambassador Zhang Jianguo. Tunisia recorded 157 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic. In all, it has reported around 17,000 deaths and 500,000 infections. With this latest announcement, China will have provided Tunisia with 1.1 million jabs.(AGENCE TUNIS AFRIQUE PRESSE)

Trade between China and members of its Belt and Road network jumped 28% in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2020, according to new data from the General Administration of Customs. Total trade volume with BRI countries amounted to $826 billion from January to June, accounting for just under a third of China’s total global trade. Steel and autos were among China’s leading export products while oil, food, and iron ore topped the list of imports. (XINHUA)

China is spending a lot more money to buy iron ore than it did even just a year ago, according to new customs data. Importers spent $93 billion on ore in the first half of the year, a staggering 86% increase compared to the same time last year. Australia, despite rapidly deteriorating political ties, has been the main beneficiary, accounting for 60% of Chinese iron ore purchases. But Chinese officials say they are working now to diversify beyond Australia to buy more from other countries, including South Africa, Sierra Leone, and Guinea among others in Africa. (GLOBAL TIMES)

A wave of civil unrest in South Africa, a key transit country for exports of cobalt feedstock from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has yet to affect shipments from the country, according to market participants in China. The unrest began last week with protests against former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing in the country’s KwaZulu-Natal province, but have escalated and broadened to many parts of South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal’s Durban port is the main gateway for supplies of cobalt feedstocks, including hydroxide, carbonate, and concentrate, from Africa to major consuming countries such as China and Finland. (ARGUS MEDIA)

The Kenyan Treasury is preparing a $325.6 million payment to the China Exim Bank now that its 6-month debt deferral period is coming to an end. The payment will include a principal of $183.5 million and an interest of $142.2 million, according to data from the World Bank. Chinese creditors resisted extending the debt repayment holiday through the end of the year. China is Kenya’s largest bilateral lender with approximately $6 billion of outstanding loans due. (THE STANDARD)

The London Court of Arbitration ruled against the Port of Djibouti this week for unlawfully terminating its joint venture in 2018 with Dubai Port World (DP World) — a move that led to the transfer of DP World’s shares to an entity jointly controlled by China Merchants Holdings and the Djibouti government. The ruling confirmed that the government illegally seized control of the Doraleh Container Terminal from DP World. The arbitration will now proceed to a second phase to decide the damages owed by the Djiboutian government to DP World. (ARABIAN BUSINESS)

The Congolese government announced that in the next two months it will launch a new program making it the sole buyer of cobalt from so-called artisanal miners in the informal sector. The government is looking to capitalize on soaring demand for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and to curb illegal exports which strip the state of needed tax revenue. The bulk of that output will still go to China for processing where battery makers are facing 30-40% shortfalls due to surging demand for EVs. (REUTERS)

The Sierra Leone parliament overwhelmingly ratified a controversial $55 million grant from China to build an industrial fishing harbor at Black Johnson beach. Environmentalists are vehemently opposed to the project on the grounds that it will adversely impact the region’s fragile ecosystem but fisheries minister Emma Kowa-Jalloh said the new port is critical for the country’s economy. Fishing contributes 10-12% to SL’s GDP, she said, but the country lacks the necessary infrastructure to support the industry. (SL CONCORD TIMES)

The Egyptian state-owned pharmaceutical company VACSERA confirmed that it has produced the first batch of one million Sinovac vaccines as part of a local production deal. The jabs are now being tested and will be available for use beginning in August. VACSERA aims to produce 80 million Sinovac doses before the end of the year as part of a campaign to inoculate 40% of the population over the next six months. (EGYPT TODAY)

China is calling for a resumption of tripartite talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) among Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.  Beijing’s envoy to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, issued the appeal late last week during a Security Council meeting and hinted that China even stands ready to act as a mediator in the contentious dispute. The GERD dam dispute goes back almost a decade. Ethiopia contends the project is critical for its development but governments in Cairo and Khartoum fear that it could restrict access to a vital source of water. (XINHUA)

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