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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 Smelter

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.


Updated: 2003/07/28