Burundi needs hydro to exploit nickel reserves

Burundi’s mines and energy minister says the central African nation needs to build a 60-MW hydroelectric project before it can exploit nickel resources that could transform its economy.

Mines and Energy Minister Samuel Ndayiragije said October 8 that Burundi has nickel reserves estimated at 4.2 million tons, which should allow for exploitation over half a century. However, he said mining could not start for five years due to insufficient energy.

Ndayiragije said Burundi needs between US$300 million and US$400 million to build a 60-MW hydroelectric dam, nearly double national capacity of 32.5 MW.

The government has already presented the energy project to World Bank and African Development Bank.

Burundi’s electric capacity is 32.5 MW, but the country has to import 15 MW from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite that, the country still has a 12-MW deficit that constrains economic growth.

Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are advancing plans for the 61.5-MW Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project, to be sited on the Kagera River in Tanzania. (HNN 3/12/08) The three countries each would receive 20 MW from the project.

Feasibility studies are under way. The expected completion date would be 2012.

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