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UPDATE 1-Battered by low prices, Congo copper output fell 5 pct in 2016
February 3, 2017 / 10:37 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Battered by low prices, Congo copper output fell 5 pct in 2016

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KINSHASA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Copper output in Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s top copper producer, fell by 5 percent on an annual basis in 2016 due to low prices and production cutbacks, the central bank said on Friday.

Congo’s economy, which depends on its mining and oil sectors for roughly 95 percent of export revenues, mined 986,582 tonnes of the metal during the year, it said in a report.

A shortage of dollars and large government deficits pushed down the Congolese franc by nearly 40 percent last year, the bank said. The inflation rate would continue to increase, from an estimated 25.04 percent in 2016 to 31.19 in 2017, it added.

The economy stands to benefit this year from a rebound in copper prices, which are up about 25 percent over the past year. The rise came too late to stem the fall in 2016 output, in part because many production decisions were set before it occurred.

The World Bank said this week it expects Congo’s economy to average 5 percent growth in 2017-18, compared with an estimated 2.7 percent in 2016.

However, it warned that public finances are severely depleted and recommended that the government seek assistance from international development partners.

The central bank’s report said copper production by the heavily indebted state mining company Gecamines fell 15 percent in 2016 to 14,260 tonnes despite plans to boost output last year by over 40 percent. (Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Tom Heneghan)

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