Zambia Risks Halting Power From World’s Biggest Dam by November

Zambia may be forced to halt power output at the world’s largest dam at Lake Kariba by November if mining companies don’t curb demand, the state-owned electricity utility said.

While operators including Barrick Gold Corp. and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. agreed at an Aug. 11 meeting to cut power usage by 30 percent, they haven’t done so yet, Bestty Phiri, strategy director at Zesco Ltd., said by phone on Friday.

“If the mining customers don’t come on board with that 30 percent reduction, then by November we should grind to a halt,” he said.

Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, is facing the worst power crisis on record as water levels drop because of low rainfall, reducing output at hydropower plants that generate more than 95 percent of the nation’s electricity. The Kariba North Bank power station, the nation’s largest, has capacity of 1,080 megawatts and accounts for almost half of the country’s total output.

Most factories are operating at 30 percent of normal capacity because of power rationing, Zambia Daily Mail reported on Friday, citing Maybin Nsupila, chief executive officer of the Zambia Association of Manufacturers.

Mining companies will cut their electricity usage by 30 percent next week when they are due to arrange for alternative emergency power imports, Jackson Sikamo, president of the Chamber of Mines, said by phone.

Water levels at Lake Kariba dropped to 40 percent by July 19, compared with 80 percent a year ago, according to official data.

Phiri said Zesco is “happy” that President Edgar Lungu’s cabinet agreed to allow the utility to raise tariffs, as announced by the government on Friday. The energy regulator is yet to disclose the magnitude of the increases.

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