Congo’s Gecamines Plans 500 Megawatt Coal-Fired Plant

Gecamines, Democratic Republic of Congo’s state-owned copper miner, will build a 500-megawatt coal-fired plant to help mining companies address electricity shortages, Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Kalej Nkand said.

Gecamines, based in the southern town of Lubumbashi, is undertaking a feasibility study for the 500 million euro ($648 million) thermal power plant, which will use coal from Luena in Katanga province, Nkand said.

“In 36 months we could have the center operational,” he said in an interview at the iPad mining and infrastructure conference in Lubumbashi yesterday. The company will make the power available to miners in Katanga, he said.

Mining companies in the southern province, where deposits have some of the world’s richest grades of copper and cobalt, have been forced to buy power from neighboring Zambia and use generators to meet production targets.

Glencore International Plc’s Katanga Mining Ltd. is investing more than $300 million to rehabilitate power lines and a hydroelectric plant that will guarantee about 450 megawatts of power for their projects by 2016. Some of the power will also go to Glencore’s Mutanda and Kansuki copper and cobalt projects, which will reimburse part of Katanga’s costs.

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s Tenke project, the largest copper producer in the country, needs another 200 megawatts of power to eventually increase production to more than 400,000 metric tons of the metal a year, Andre Kapanga, Tenke’s head of external relations, told the conference.

No Goal

Without immediate investment in power, Congo’s Mines Ministry can’t achieve its goal of almost tripling copper output to 1.5 million tons in 2016, Kapanga said. Congo’s copper production could rise to more than 600,000 tons this year from 520,000 tons last year, Barthelemy Mumba Gamba, provincial mines minister for Katanga, said yesterday.

Gecamines will use some of the power from the plant to increase its own copper production to 100,000 tons a year from about 30,000 tons, Nkand said. Talks on financing are “very advanced,” Nkand said without naming the potential backers. Gecamines will hand over management of the plant to Congo’s state-owned electric company or another management group, he said.

The company is also in talks with the Development Bank of Southern Africa about securing $270 million in financing, which may be concluded by December, he said.

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