April 14, 2015 / 1:28 PM / 5 years ago

US firm completes financing for coal and power project in Niger

NIAMEY (Reuters) - U.S.-firm Source California Energy Services (SCES) has completed financing for a 740 billion CFA francs ($1.2 billion) open-cast coal and power project in Niger to produce 600 megawatts for the national grid, the company said.

The project at Salkadamna in the Tahoua region of Niger about 900 km (600 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey has coal reserves of around 69 million tonnes and will also be able to produce around 100,000 tonnes of charcoal bricks a year.

“The financing for the construction of the Salkadamna coal plant is complete. We are able to begin the project,” said SCES president David McMillan after an meeting on Monday with Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou.

He gave no start date for operations but said it would run for 40 years and employ thousands. Energy and Petroleum Minister Foumakoye Gado said last year it would serve national energy needs and allow power exports to Benin and Burkina Faso.

The charcoal bricks could help stop desertification in Niger, three quarters of whose area is desert. Niger already loses forest mass each year, in part because people chop trees for firewood as well as to build dwellings.

Niger has relied since 1976 on electricity from its southern neighbour Nigeria, but the country opened a coal plant near the northern city of Agadez in 1975 which serves companies including uranium producer Areva .

$1 = 620.7600 CFA francs

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