KINSHASA Jan 14 (Reuters) - Congo's Gecamines plans to build a $1.5 billion plant to process the output from two copper mines with an estimated 5 million tonnes of ore, the state miner said on Monday, after completing the buyout of a joint venture partner on the projects.
Gecamines concluded a deal on Jan. 11 to purchase British Virgin Islands-registered Copperbelt Minerals Limited's 68 percent stake in the Deziwa and Ecaille C projects in Congo's mineral-rich Katanga province.
"On the basis of the potential of these two mine sites, Gecamines projects the construction of a metallurgical plant with a (annual) capacity of 200,000 tonnes," it said.
The chairman of Gecamines' board of directors, Albert Yuma, said the state miner would raise the money to fund the project and that the plant was expected to come online in 2015 with a reduced capacity of 100,000 tonnes.
"These (two mine sites) are the most significant known reserves in Katanga at the moment," he said in a telephone interview.
Gecamines was once one of Africa's largest copper producers, with yearly output peaking at around 500,000 tonnes in the late 1980, but its production has dwindled over two decades of decline and its debts have mounted to an estimated $1.5 billion.
Gecamines announced in 2011 a $930 million overhaul aimed at turning the company around and reaching output of 100,000 tonnes by 2015, up from current levels of 20,000 tonnes.
The company last year bought out another of its joint venture partners, Congolese company George Forrest International, as part of its efforts to ramp up production. (Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Joe Bavier and Jane Baird)