China to finance Guinea’s 750-MW Souapiti

China has agreed to fund construction of the US$1 billion, 750-MW Souapiti hydroelectric project in Guinea, officials of the West African country said.

A senior Chinese government delegation visiting Guinea confirmed that China’s government-owned Export-Import Bank would fund the dam.

Souapiti is to be built on the Konkoure River. In 2002, Guinea Aluminum Products Co. commissioned Washington Infrastructure Services of the United States to perform a feasibility study of a 500-MW Souapiti and a 215-MW Kaleta hydroelectric project, intended to power a 240,000-ton-per-year aluminum smelter. (HNN 5/28/07)

Local media reported that in return for Chinese funding, Guinean authorities would guarantee China access to mineral reserves equivalent to some 2 billion tons of bauxite, the raw material used in the production of aluminum.

“To guarantee Chinese investment, you have to give them guarantees, but nothing has yet been formally decided,” Cece Noramou, a senior official in Guinea’s mines ministry, said July 7. “They are interested in bauxite, but we haven’t finished determining the tonnage and so on.”

The Chinese delegation also promised debt relief worth about US$4 million and an aid package of US$5.2 million, according to Aboubacar Cisse, a spokesman for Guinea’s foreign ministry. He said China also pledged to renovate the People’s Palace cultural center in Conakry and the state radio and television center, partially destroyed when a Guinean air force jet crash-landed on it in April.

Guinea is the world’s top bauxite exporter but most of the population survives on less than $1 a day. It is one of the world’s least developed countries and even parts of the capital city have only sporadic mains power.

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