Demand for power from new and existing mines in Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, will almost double over the next five years, according to Copperbelt Energy Corp.
Demand from the country’s Copperbelt and North West regions will rise to 1,550 megawatts by 2019 from 900 megawatts now, Corporate Development Managing Director Michael Tarney said in a Feb. 7 interview in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek.
Copperbelt Energy, based in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, and also known as CEC, is the largest supplier of electricity to mining companies in the southern African nation, where the local units of companies such as First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and Glencore Xstrata Plc have expansion projects under way. The country will this year commission power projects that will boost generation capacity by 39 percent, or 780 megawatts, Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma said on Feb. 5.
“Demand is being driven by new investments in copper mining and smelting,” Tarney said. “They are all expanding and some are sinking new shafts and this means we have to find more power.”
Demand in the Copperbelt region is projected to rise to 850 megawatts in the next five years from about 650 megawatts now, while it may almost triple to 700 megawatts from 250 megawatts in the North-West province as new mining projects start, he said. One megawatt is enough capacity to power about 2,000 average European homes.
First Quantum Minerals’ $1.7 billion Sentinel copper project, which will be commissioned in the second half of the year, will require about 400 megawatts once it’s fully operational, Tarney said. The project will help raise Zambia’s copper output to more than 1 million metric tons in 2015 from 760,000 tons last year, Yaluma said on Feb. 5.
CEC, which owns power plants and distribution lines in Zambia, is buying a 30 percent stake in state-owned Namibia Power Corp.’s Kudu natural gas-to-power plant, a deal that has helped it secure a guaranteed 300 megawatts of capacity from 2017.
“We are trying to keep pace with demand as the energy industry has been slow in investing in generation,” he said.
Demand has also been rising in Katanga province, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper heartland, where CEC supplies 30 megawatts directly to Eurasian Natural Resources Corp.’s Frontier copper development, and as much as 70 megawatts to five other operations through an interconnector.
“The power deficit in the DRC is huge and for us, this is one market for power from Kudu,” Tarney said.