Ivanhoe Mines’ Co-Chairs Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun have announced that Ivanhoe Mines Energy DRC – a sister company of Kamoa Copper SA tasked with delivering reliable, clean, renewable hydropower to the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine – has extended its existing financing agreement under a public-private partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned power company, La Société Nationale d’ Électricité (SNEL), to upgrade turbine 5, a major turbine in the existing Inga II hydropower facility on the Congo River.
The extension of this financing agreement builds on the framework agreed in the memorandum of understanding signed with SNEL and announced in April 2021.
An estimated 162 megawatts (MW) of hydropower is expected to be generated by upgrading Inga II’s turbine 5, which when combined with the 78 MW of hydropower from the Mwadingusha facility, will give Kamoa-Kakula priority access to a combined 240 MW of clean, renewable electricity.
The financing agreement was originally entered into in connection with the joint rehabilitation of the Mwadingusha hydropower plant under the first public-private partnership with SNEL, where five of six turbines now have been completed. Under this financial arrangement, rehabilitation and upgrade activities are financed by Kamoa Copper’s holding company, Kamoa Holding, by way of a loan to SNEL, which will be repaid through a deduction to monthly power bills incurred over the life of the loan.
Kamoa Copper and SNEL, together with the expertise of Stucky SA of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Voith Hydro of Heidenheim, Germany, respectively the EPCM and the contractor, have commenced a technical assessment to define the scope of work and associated costs estimate. The work also will include upgrading of the terminal equipment on the Inga-Kolwezi transmission line to increase its transfer capacity by a minimum of 200 MW.
Friedland commented: “The Kamoa Copper management team continues to execute on our strategic plan to systematically expand Kamoa-Kakula into one of the world’s largest and greenest copper producers. The timely refurbishment of turbine 5 at the Inga II hydropower complex is instrumental in ensuring we meet the aggressive expansion goals we’ve set out to accomplish in the next few years.”
SNEL CEO, Jean-Bosco Kayombo Kayan, added:
“SNEL and Ivanhoe Mines Energy are confident that the Inga II project will enjoy the same success as our joint rehabilitation of the Mwadingusha hydroelectric power station. We all are keen on fast-tracking the return to service of unit 5 at Inga II to provide access to electricity to more people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to meet the power demands of the world-scale Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine.”
Estimated 162 MW of hydropower expected to be generated by Inga II turbine 5 upgrade
The Inga II hydropower plant is located in the southwest of the DRC, on the Congo River. The Congo River is the deepest river in the world and the second longest after the Nile, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon River. Measured along with the Lualaba, the main tributary, the Congo River has a total length of 4,370 kilometres. It is the only major river to cross the equator twice. The Congo River is unique in that it has large rapids and waterfalls very close to the mouth, while most rivers have these features upstream. The rapids and waterfalls give the Congo River huge hydropower potential. The Congo Basin covers an estimated total area of 3.7 million square kilometres, approximately 13% of the entire African landmass.
Originally equipped between 1977 and 1982, Inga II has been running for approximately 40 years. Four of the eight turbines at Inga II have been refurbished. Turbine 5 is one of the remaining four turbines that are awaiting an upgrade. An estimated output of 162 MW is expected to be unlocked by upgrading Inga II’s turbine 5, part of which will be used to meet future power requirements of the Kamoa-Kakula Mine. The surplus power produced from the upgraded turbine will be distributed on the national power grid to increase access to electricity for the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
SNEL and Ivanhoe Mines Energy DRC have appointed Voith Hydro, a leading engineering group, as the contractor to lead the consortium of equipment manufacturers for the turbine upgrade. For more than 80 years, Voith has successfully constructed and modernized hydropower plants on the African continent, and approximately 25% of currently installed turbine capacity in Africa has been supplied by Voith. The company also has successfully rehabilitated two turbine generators at the adjoining Inga I hydropower plant, a project that was financed by the World Bank.
The Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (20%).