Report Australia miner eyes power from DRC’s Inga complex

A Congo government official is quoted saying Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. is considering an aluminum operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that would utilize power from the Inga hydroelectric complex.

Bloomberg news service quoted DRC Ambassador Benedict M’Poko saying BHP is studying a bauxite deposit in DRC’s southwest Bas-Congo Province near the Inga project on the Congo River. Bloomberg said it interviewed M’Poko at the Mining Indaba conference, being held February 6-8 in Capetown.

M’Poko said BHP is considering establishing a bauxite mine and building an aluminum smelter that would exploit Inga power. He said the project would require a deepwater port and rehabilitation of Inga, Bloomberg said.

Although BHP did not comment, the company has established corporate offices in DRC and Guinea and has said it is exploring opportunities in DRC. It already has operations in South Africa and Mozambique.

DRC recently requested expressions of interest from consultants to provide legal assistance in financing the rehabilitation of the Inga complex. (HNN 1/11/07) Currently the 350-MW Inga 1 and 1,424-MW Inga 2 plants produce a total of only 500 MW due to lack of maintenance. (HNN 11/17/06) Canadian magnesium producer MagIndustries, which is developing the 60,000-ton-per-year Kouilou Magnesium Project in Pointe Noire, Congo Republic, is funding a project to rehabilitate Inga units. (HNN 10/12/06)

International donors and financiers have been waiting for DRC’s new government to bring peace and security before proceeding with plans for a 3,500-MW Inga 3 project, seen as the first step in a 40,000-MW Inga complex.

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