Kinshasa, DRC — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 29 October 2010 – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is in very advanced talks with BHP Billiton Limited on the Inga 3 hydropower project, as the world’s biggest mining company seeks electricity for a possible aluminum smelter.
The DRC government is formally inviting offers to build the project on the Congo River, energy minister Gilbert Tshiongo Tshibinkubula wa Tumba said today in the capital, Kinshasa. BHP Billiton “’ which is studying the development of a smelter in the country “’ is continuing talks with the government on both the hydropower and smelter ventures, which are at an early conceptual phase,” London-based company spokeswoman Rosheeka Amarasekara said by telephone from London.
Inga 3 is part of the planned US$22 billion (R149.6 billion) Inga power complex, estimated to generate about 40 000 MW “’ almost twice the capacity of China’s Three Gorges dam.
“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 at this stage,” she explained.
BHP said in 2007 that its plant could use about 2 000 MW of power from the proposed Inga 3 project and produce 800 000tpa of the metal.
“While waiting for the construction of Inga 3, the DRC will face a deficit in 2015 in the order of 858 MW 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 to 4 200 MW will be “prioritized” for BHP’s smelter.
The nation needs US$6.4 billion (R43.5 billion) over the next five years to rehabilitate and build its electricity network. The DRC is seeking US$22 billion (R149 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.