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China's CMOC eyes solar and hydro for Congo copper-cobalt expansion

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FILE PHOTO: Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo's copper-producing south
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By Tom Daly

(Reuters) - China Molybdenum Co (CMOC) is looking to tap more hydropower projects and potentially use solar energy as it expands its production of copper and cobalt in Democratic Republic of Congo, its vice chairman said.

Steele Li, who is also chief investment officer at CMOC, said the company was committed to hydropower through the supply arrangement it inherited when it bought a majority stake in the giant Tenke Fungurume mine in Congo in 2016.

"We continue that commitment but in the meantime we are exploring to participate in other new hydropower projects as well," Li said, adding that solar power was one of the other initiatives the company was looking at.

"It looks quite interesting as well," he said in an interview for the Reuters Impact conference broadcast on Tuesday, without providing further details.

Ahead of the U.N. COP26 climate talks in Scotland from Oct. 31, global business leaders and politicians are taking part in the Reuters Impact conference to discuss efforts to mitigate climate change and drive sustainable growth.

Mining companies are increasingly looking at renewable energy to help meet their growing power needs and also to cut their own emissions in the face of pressure from investors.

"We have a dedicated team that is actually looking at hydropower project opportunities across the world because we think that will be one of the main areas when we are talking about green energy," Li said.

He said CMOC was also studying power storage and batteries.

In August, CMOC said it would invest $2.5 billion at Tenke Fungurume by 2023 to roughly double its annual output of copper and cobalt, one of the key materials in electric vehicle batteries.

It is also carrying out a feasibility study on the nearby Kisanfu mine, where it is partnered with Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL).

CMOC produced 15,400 tonnes of cobalt in 2020 and aims to be the world's biggest cobalt producer in the future, Li said, declining to attach a more precise time frame to that target.

To watch the Reuters IMPACT conference please register here

(Reporting by Tom Daly; Additional reporting by Helen Reid in Johannesburg; Editing by David Clarke)

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