China to build $660m hydroelectric plant in DR Congo

China’s Sinohydro and China Railway Group will finance a $660m hydroelectric plant in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo to ease the electricity deficit in this key copper-mining region.

The 240-megawatt dam in the town of Busanga will power Sicomines, a nearby copper and cobalt mining joint venture between the Chinese companies and Congolese state miner Gecamines.

DR Congo is Africa’s largest miner of copper.

Sicomines is the mining side of a $6bn minerals-for-infrastructure deal signed in 2007, under which Sinohydro and China Railway Group pledged to build $3bn worth of infrastructure in return for a 68% stake in the mine.

According to Reuters, Moïse Ekanga, executive secretary of the Congolese government office in charge of the deal, said this week that Sicomines would require 170 MW from the Busanga dam to run at full capacity, while the remaining 70 MW would feed the national grid.

Congo’s southeastern mining region has an electricity deficit of about 900 MW, a government statement said.

"This agreement will help jumpstart energy development in the DRC after the recent slowdown due to falling commodity prices," said Ekanga, adding Mauritian firm Mag Energy International will also be a partner in the project, reported Reuters.

The statement did not say how long construction would last. Sicomines officials have previously estimated that it would take four to five years.

Reuters reports that Sicomines, which began operations last November, is already DR Congo’s third largest producer of copper.

Image: Artist’s render of the Busanga Hydropower Station (Sinhydro)

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