GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 14 (Reuters) -
C hina's Sinohydro and China Railway Group
will finance a $660 million hydroelectric plant in southeastern
Democratic Republic of Congo which is being built to reduce the
copper-mining region's power deficit.
Congo is Africa's largest miner of copper and the 240
megawatt dam in the town of Busanga will power Sicomines, a
nearby copper and cobalt mining joint venture between the
Chinese companies and Congolese state miner Gecamines.
Sicomines is the mining side of a $6 billion
minerals-for-infrastructure deal signed in 2007, under which
Sinohydro and China Railway Group pledged to build $3 billion
worth of infrastructure in return for a 68 percent stake in the
Moïse Ekanga, executive secretary of the Congolese
government office charged with overseeing the deal, said on
Tuesday that Sicomines would require 170 MW from the Busanga dam
to run at full capacity, while the remaining 70 MW would feed
the national grid.
Congo's southeastern mining region has an electricity
deficit of about 900 MW, the statement said.
"This agreement will help jumpstart energy development in
the DRC after the recent slowdown due to falling commodity
prices," Ekanga said, adding Mauritian firm Mag Energy
International will also be a partner in the project.
The statement did not say how long construction would last.
Sicomines officials have previously estimated that it would take
four to five years.
It also did not say whether the Chinese firms' funding would
be counted toward their infrastructure or mining obligations
under the original contract.
Campaign groups have expressed concerns that the money will
be considered as infrastructure investments, reducing the amount
available for roads, schools and hospitals.
Sicomines, which began operations last November, is already
Congo's third largest producer of copper, according to the
country's chamber of mines.
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alexander Smith)