Dan Gertler. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON
Dan Gertler. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON

London — Glencore’s clash with former partner Dan Gertler over unpaid royalties at a key Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) copper mine deepened as the legal battle spread to a London court.

On Tuesday, the Swiss miner was granted a temporary injunction against the Israeli billionaire after petitioning the London court to rule against a DRC judge’s decision last week to freeze assets at its Kamoto copper project, people familiar with the matter said. Gertler is claiming $2.28bn in damages and unpaid royalties, which Glencore stopped paying after he was sanctioned by the US in December.

The dispute with Gertler is the latest problem the world’s biggest commodity trader is facing in the DRC, where it’s the top producer of copper and cobalt. Glencore is challenging the government over a new mining code which raises taxes and royalties, while state-owned miner Gecamines, last month, accused Glencore of "draining" Kamoto of profit and asked a DRC judge to dissolve the joint venture.

Under the terms of the royalty accord with Gertler, which is subject to English law, the DRC court has no authority to freeze the assets, Glencore has said. Tuesday’s injunction prevents Gertler from taking further legal steps against Kamoto until the case is heard on May 11, but doesn’t yet constitute a decision on the asset freezes in DRC, which remain in place, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing an ongoing court process.

Glencore shares

Glencore shares rose 2.9% in London, snapping a five-day drop, the longest run of losses this year.

Glencore and Gertler had invested together in Kamoto over the past decade, and in a second mining project in the country, called Mutanda. While Glencore bought Gertler’s stakes in the mines last year in a near billion-dollar deal, it’s still obliged to pay him royalties, which he acquired from Gecamines in earlier agreements.

Making those payments has become complicated for Glencore since the US sanctioned Gertler for alleged corruption. The penalties prevent the billionaire from dealing in dollars and make it difficult for Glencore to trade with him in any currency.

DRC deals with Gertler turned Glencore into the world’s third-largest copper producer and top miner of cobalt, and helped the Israeli accumulate more than $2bn in wealth, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They also brought scrutiny from advocacy groups that questioned the probity of Gertler’s operations in the country and his close relationship with DRC President Joseph Kabila. Gertler has denied any wrongdoing.

Gertler is also claiming a further $695mn in damages and unpaid royalties from Mutanda. The agreement between Mutanda and Gertler’s company is subject to arbitration in Hong Kong, Glencore said last week, adding that it will contest the order.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that Glencore had obtained a temporary injunction against Gertler over the royalty claims.

Bloomberg