Mining firm to study Sierra Leone’s 50-MW Bumbuna

London-based African Minerals Ltd. has agreed to commission an engineering study of the long-delayed 50-MW Bumbuna hydroelectric project as part of its studies of its Tonkolili iron ore project in Sierra Leone.

The dam, on the Seli River about 200 kilometers northeast of Freetown, was begun in the 1970s as an Italian aid project but was suspended because of war, corruption, and a lack of cash. President Ernest Bai Koroma said in January he hoped the long-delayed project would be finished by the end of 2008 as part of Sierra Leone’s effort to reduce reliance on polluting diesel generators. (HNN 1/21/08)

The Bumbuna study was one part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Sierra Leone that was announced by African Minerals May 6.

The company also is to undertake engineering studies of upgrading the port of Pepel and a railway between Pepel and Marampa, and extension of the railway to Tonkolili. Subject to study results, African Minerals would carry out the improvements and make the infrastructure available to other users.

The head of African Minerals, the former Sierra Leone Diamond Co. Ltd., said the company is pleased to embark on the next phase of its strategic plan to become a diversified minerals producer.

“The MOU underlines the company’s strong working relationship with the government of Sierra Leone and commitment to improving the country’s infrastructure whilst securing the rail, port, and power capacity requirements for our iron ore projects,” Executive Chairman Frank Timis said.

The agreement provides that, in cooperation with Bumbuna Power Authority and the government, African Minerals will commission an engineering study of the Bumbuna hydro project concurrently with preparation of a feasibility study of the Tonkolili iron project, about 20 kilometers away.

As well as providing additional power generation for national requirements, the aim of the hydro study is to upgrade generating capacity of the hydro project and the construction of transmission facilities to provide Tonkolili a secure and uninterrupted power supply.

Work on Bumbuna stalled again last year because of a funding shortfall of 30 million euros (US$43 million) after looters stole 207 kilometers of transmission cables and many of the pylons to sell for scrap.

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