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DRC seeks US$80 billion dam

The Congo River,
with Kinshasa in
the background
Kinshasa, DRC — MININGREVIEW.COM — 14 October 2008 – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is seeking an agreement with other African nations to develop an US$80 billion (R720 billion) dam across the Congo River to produce 40 000 MW – twice the current capacity of China’s Three-Gorges Dam.

“The DRC is hoping to re-negotiate an outstanding joint-venture for a smaller project with Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa,” energy minister Salomon Banamuhere told Bloomberg News in an interview here. “We had an agreement,” he added, “but our own energy needs have grown.”

A major motivating factor for the larger project is the government’s eagerness to provide the power required for the country’s mining industry. The DRC says it needs 2 100 MW to develop the mining industry in the southern province of Katanga alone, which has a third of the world’s cobalt reserves and 4% of its copper.

The government also wishes to provide 2 000 megawatts to BHP Billiton Limited – the world’s largest mining company – for a proposed aluminum smelter, and of course it would like to boost the supply of electricity to the local population. .

The Congo is the world’s second-largest river by volume after the Amazon, while only about 6% of the country’s inhabitants have access to electricity in their homes.

Bloomberg reports that the current Westcor agreement calls for construction of the US$5 billion (R45 billion) Inga III dam, producing 3 500 megawatts. Westcor’s members will meet in Kinshasa on 22 October to discuss the proposal,” Banamuhere said.

While the Inga I and II dams have an installed capacity of 1 774 MW, they can supply only 700 MW, as decades of mismanagement have left the turbines in disrepair.