* Firm’s second cobalt plant in DRC starts test production
* Willing to acquire more mining assets in country (Adds detail, background)
By Tom Daly and Melanie Burton
HONG KONG, May 17 (Reuters) - China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Co is targeting cobalt production of more than 30,000 tonnes this year as it expands capacity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a company executive said on Thursday.
“Our target for this year is to exceed 30,000 tonnes” of cobalt metal equivalent globally, Frank Chen, vice president of the company, said on the sidelines of the LME Asia Week conference in Hong Kong. Last year’s output was around 20,000 tonnes, he added.
Huayou last year decided to build a second cobalt refinery in Kolwezi in the south of the DRC, the world’s biggest cobalt producer, where it also has mining assets. That plant will have annual cobalt hydroxide production capacity of 5,000 tonnes.
The new plant is currently undergoing test production and will launch properly “very soon,” contributing to the company’s increased cobalt production this year, Chen added.
Cobalt is a key ingredient in rechargeable batteries used in electric vehicles to mobile phones, and Chinese companies like Huayou have already secured a large chunk of supply from the DRC.
Huayou is looking to invest in new mining projects in the country, Chen said.
“If there are better opportunities, we will definitely be willing,” he told Reuters, without specifying which assets the company would go for. (Reporting by Tom Daly and Melanie Burton Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.)