The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), known for its shortage of power supply, will over the next few years improve its electricity output thanks to the DRC mining sector.
Numerous mining companies in the DRC are looking to generate new hydroelectric power as part of their strategic operational plans over the next few years.
Three companies are investing significant amounts of cash into the upgrade or construction of new hydroelectric power plants in the country, which provides them with power supply security for their own operations.
Randgold Resources, which operates the Kibali gold project in the DRC in joint venture with Anglogold Ashanti, is underway with the construction of Ambarau, the second 11 MW hydropower station (of three), which is expected to produce its first power imminently.
Work has also been initiated on Azambi, the third hydropower station, with commissioning of the 11 MW facility expected in the first quarter of 2017. The company has already successfully commissioned the first hydropower station – the 22 MW Nzoro 2 hydropower station – in 2014.
In peak demand Kibali will require between 40 and 47 MW of power – of which between 18 MW and 22 MW will be supplied from the hydropower stations and the balance from a thermal station.
Besides powering only the Kibali operation, Randgold provides 1.8 MW of power to the town of Kokiza, which it had to relocate in the run up to the establishment of the Kibali operation.
Randgold CEO Mark Bristow says that in the months of peak power production, if Kibali were able to link its grid to those of its neighbouring countries in future, it would be able to sell a significant amount of power to the neighbouring grids.
In March 2014, a financing agreement was signed between Ivanhoe and the DRC’s national electricity company, La Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL). Ivanhoe is working with SNEL to upgrade two existing hydroelectric power plants – Mwadingusha and Koni – to recover up to 113 MW of capacity to be made available to the national power supply grid.
SNEL will provide Ivanhoe’s Kamoa project with up to 100 MW from the grid, which would be sufficient to operate the initial phase of the Kamoa mine. The mine is said to be operational in 2018.
A third hydroelectric power plant – Nzilo 1 – would follow under the same financing agreement. Nzilo 1 will have a capacity of approximately 108 MW upon completion, entitling Kamoa to receive an additional 100 MW from the grid. The upgraded technology planned to be applied will increase the original design capacity of these power plants by up to 10%.
A combined total of 200 MW from the grid would provide sufficient power for Kamoa’s 300 000 tpa smelter and the associated future mine expansions.
Sicomines SARL, a joint venture between Congolese mining company Gecamines SA, China‘s Sinohydro and the China Railway Group plans to produce an initial copper output of 50 000 t annually from two plants in the DRC. This will gradually rise to an expected 400 000 t over the next two decades the company says.
The Sicomines plants represent a critical development and capacity-building endeavor for the DRC, employing 3 000 workers, 70% of whom will be Congolese. In addition, the joint venture will disburse approximately $3 billion for the construction of roads, dams, hospitals and schools, including infrastructure projects such as the Busanga hydroelectric project, located on Lualaba River of Province du Haut Katanga, about 65 km away from Kolwezi.
According to Sinohydro, the project will produce 240 MW.