* Government says will implement power rationing
* Congo reported record copper output in 2013
* Glencore, Freeport have mining projects in Katanga
By Peter Jones
KINSHASA, March 6 Democratic Republic of Congo's
prime minister has told mining companies to halt any expansion
plans requiring extra power in the copper-rich Katanga province
due to an "energy crisis", a document seen by Reuters showed on
In a letter addressed to President Joseph Kabila and various
government ministers, Augustin Matata Ponyo said that national
power company SNEL should not grant any new energy contracts for
mining companies nor allow changes to existing contracts.
"I equally consider it necessary that mining clients
postpone immediately and until further notice any expansion
project requiring additional energy," Ponyo wrote in a letter
dated January 10.
International mining companies such as Glencore and
Freeport McMoRan have major operations in Congo's
southeastern Katanga province, drawn to the region by huge
Katanga Mining, a Glencore-owned firm, aims to
expand its copper output to 300,000 tonnes in 2014 as part of a
plan to become Africa's largest producer of the metal. The
company produced 136,192 tonnes in 2013, it said in a March
Glencore declined to comment and Freeport was not
immediately available for comment.
Congo produced a record 942,000 tonnes of copper last year,
a leap of 52 percent from the year before, the International
Monetary Fund said. That would make it Africa's largest producer
of the metal, according to commodities analysis company CRU
Exports from Congo's mining sector make up about 80 percent
of the country's annual export revenues, according to the prime
Miners in Katanga have complained of insufficient and
unreliable energy supplies limiting production. In the letter,
Ponyo says that of Katanga's demand of around 900 megawatts (MW)
from the mining companies, only 461.7 MW is available.
To manage the energy deficit, Ponyo says the government will
ration power allocation to each mining firm. Allocations will be
on the basis of the age of the contract, the level of production
and the minimum energy levels required to carry out profitable
business, he says.
Congo will also import 100 MW of energy from Zambia's
national electricity operator in order to minimise the energy
deficit, the letter says.
"There is going to be big competition between the companies
as to who gets more and discussions with the government are
likely to be fierce," said Control Risks analyst Christoph
Congo hopes that the Inga III hydroelectric dam project,
projected to generate 4,800 MW of energy from the Congo river,
will one day solve its energy deficit for good.
But progress has been slow and construction could take five
to six years to complete from a planned start date in October
2015. The government is also working on "important projects to
rehabilitate and extend existing electricity infrastructure, as
well as construct new hydroelectric centres," says Ponyo.
"But the anticipated effects of these works will only be
visible in several years," he added.
Earlier on Thursday South African state power utility Eskom
imposed blackouts for the first time since 2008 on Thursday,
forcing rail networks and banks to switch to emergency
generators after heavy rains soaked power station coal supplies.