Congo Says Talks with BHP on Inga
Are 'Very Advanced'
Nov 17, 2010 - SF Gate
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of
Congo's government is in "very advanced" talks
with BHP Billiton Ltd. on the Inga 3 hydropower
project, as the world's biggest mining company
seeks electricity for a possible aluminum smelter.
Congo formally invited offers to build the project
on the Congo River yesterday, Energy Minister Gilbert
Tshiongo Tshibinkubula wa Tumba said today in Kinshasa,
the capital. BHP, studying development of a smelter
in the country, is continuing talks with the government
on both ventures, which are at an "early conceptual
phase," Rosheeka Amarasekara, a London-based
spokeswoman for the company, said by telephone.
Inga 3 is part of the planned $22 billion Inga power
complex, estimated to generate about 40,000 megawatts,
almost twice the capacity of China's Three Gorges
dam. A previous proposal for the 5,000-megawatt Inga
3, estimated to cost $5.2 billion, was shelved when
Western Power Corridor, a venture between five African
countries, was dissolved.
"BHP could potentially support the development
of Inga 3 by constructing an aluminum smelter in
the Bas Congo province which could source power from
the Inga 3 hydropower scheme," Amarasekara said.
The company can't provide estimates on output or
costs, she said.
BHP said in 2007 its plant could use about 2,000
megawatts of power from the proposed Inga 3 project
and produce 800,000 metric tons of the metal a year.
"While waiting for the construction of Inga
3, Congo will face a deficit in 2015 in the order
of 858 megawatts as demand rises, notably the demand
of miners," the energy minister said today.
The country wants Inga 3 to be operational by 2020,
he said, adding that 3,500 megawatts to 4,200 megawatts
will be "prioritized" for BHP's smelter.
The nation needs $6.4 billion over the next five
years to rehabilitate and build its electricity network.
Congo is seeking $22 billion between 2015 and 2025
for Inga 3 and the Grand Inga dam, which would harness
the power of the Congo River, the second-biggest
by volume after the Amazon.
Congo's rivers could produce more than 100,000 megawatts
at 341 different sites, the minister said. Only 2.5
percent of their energy potential is currently being
exploited. Congo has 2.463 megawatts of hydropower
installed and 1.382 is being used, he said.