KINSHASA, March 7 Mining company Freeport
McMoRan said on Friday power rationing in the Democratic
Republic of Congo would not affect its operations in the short
term but that future expansion plans would depend in part on a
reliable energy supply.
A letter obtained by Reuters showed that Prime Minister
Augustin Matata Ponyo had ordered mining companies to suspend
expansion projects due to an energy deficit in Congo's
copper-rich Katanga province.
In the letter dated Jan. 10, Ponyo also outlined a system of
power rationing meant to mitigate Congo's inability to meet
mining companies' electricity demands.
However, a spokesman for Freeport McMoRan said the company's
massive Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) project in Katanga would
not be immediately affected by the proposals.
"There is currently sufficient power available for TFM to
run its operations," Eric Kinneburg said in an email to Reuters.
"We have experienced intermittent outages over the last
several months and have been working with authorities to resolve
the issues," he added.
Kinneburg said TFM had committed to investing some $220
million in efforts to secure reliable power. The company has
undertaken the refurbishment of four turbines at a local
hydropower station, he said.
Congo's mineral wealth - including large deposits of
diamonds, gold, copper, cassiterite and coltan - attracts
investors from across the globe.
Mining contributes 30 percent of Congo's gross domestic
product (GDP) and 80 percent of export revenues, Ponyo said in
the January letter.
However, mining operations have been hamstrung by
insufficient power supply. Of the estimated 900 MW miners in
Katanga require, Congo can provide only 461.7 MW, according to
The International Monetary Fund said copper production in
Congo jumped 52 percent to a record 942,000 tonnes last year.
That would make it the largest African copper producer,
according to commodities analyst CRU Group.
Similar growth in output is unlikely in 2014 as current
operations reach capacity and expansion plans are put on hold
due to the energy deficit.
"Future expansions are subject to a number of factors,
including economic and market conditions, the business and
investment climate in (Congo), and the condition of certain
infrastructure in Katanga such as power availability and
transportation," Kinneburg said.