BHP seeks Congo power project to replace Westcor

Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:19am GMT

* BHP wants 2,500 MW plant to feed proposed aluminium smelter

* Plans $5 bln smelter and $3.5 bln plant to go live in 2018 * Inga X vies for same spot at Westcor's abandoned Inga 3

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton (BLT.L: Quote), the world's biggest mining company, wants to build a $3.5 billion 2,500 MW hydro power plant in Democratic Republic of Congo to support its proposed aluminum smelter, according to a company presentation obtained by Reuters.

The proposed Inga X project, to be presented to Congo's presidency on Friday, would replace a rival 5,000 MW project for the same location put forward by Westcor and rejected by the government last weekend -- a venture that would have exported the bulk of its power to southern African neighbours.

"It's very sad, they (DRC) made the wrong choice," Pat Naidoo, chief executive of Westcor, said. Westcor, or the Western Power Corridor, is a joint venture between five southern African governments and utilities.

BHP's Inga X plan envisages a power plant on the Congo River to supply a proposed $5 billion aluminium smelter 150 km away that would process 2 million tonnes of Guinean alumina per year into 800,000 tonnes of finished aluminum, according to the presentation.

"Even despite the global economic ciris, BHP Billiton always considered its aluminium smelter project in DRC a priority," according to the presentation. "BHP Billiton is ready to realise the project Inga X in partnership with the DRC in a public-private partnership."   Continued...

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