(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo all but closed the gap with Peru in terms of copper shipment volumes last year, official data from the two countries show.
While Peru remained the second-biggest supplier of the metal, the two nations are now neck and neck, underscoring a couple of important trends. An up-tick in social unrest and political uncertainties are constraining investment in South America, as more money flows into Africa’s rich ore-bodies.
Peru had sat comfortably as the biggest copper producer and exporter after neighboring Chile for years thanks to a wave of projects earlier this century that has largely dried up. In recent years, political upheaval and community protests have helped keep the country’s copper exports fairly flat.
Congo, meanwhile, has been making huge strides thanks largely to the high-grade ore now being tapped by Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. in Kamoa-Kakula. Congolese exports have doubled since 2018 to 2.4 million tons. Peru shipped 2.5 million tons.
While copper mines in Congo have also faced disruptions, such as a prolonged export halt at Tenke Fungurume, they haven’t halted its growth.
Read More: Peru Seen Losing Title of No. 2 Copper Producer Soon to Congo
Whether Congo can cement the No. 2 supplier position is unclear. Much will depend on whether Peru can garner political consensus to bring on new projects and prevent disruptions.
The two nations’ production levels are also very close, according to Peru’s mining ministry and Congo’s central bank. Consulting firm Wood Mackenzie said this week that Congo would only fully take over Peru in terms of production by 2026 or 2027.
(Corrects June 1 story throughout to reflect that Peru remains the second-largest copper supplier)
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