Bidding nears for $9-14 bln Congo hydropower plant

Sat May 18, 2013 12:13pm EDT
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* Chinese, Korean and Spanish firms to bid by early 2014

* Plant would provide 4,800 MW, S.Africa to buy over half

* Congo needs more electricity to power mining operations

By John Irish

PARIS, May 18 (Reuters) - Chinese, South Korean and Spanish firms are vying to develop a hydropower project likely to cost between $9 billion and $14 billion on the Congo River, Congolese officials said on Saturday.

The planned Inga 3 scheme, which aims to overcome power shortages that have curtailed economic growth in Africa, would produce some 4,800 megawatts (MW) of electricity and is one of the largest proposed power projects in Africa.

It would be sited about 230 km southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) capital Kinshasa.

Yet the project has been dogged by problems since the 1980s, ranging from political instability including a recent civil war to local objections and, not least, the massive costs.

Speaking after three days of meetings in Paris that brought together the World Bank, African Development Bank, technical, financial advisers and potential developers, Congo's Electricity Minister said there was a commitment to the project because of rising demand for electricity in the region.   Continued...