DRC: Construction of 240-MW Busanga Hydropower Project Begins – Controversially

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  • Construction of the US$660 million 240MW Busanga hydro project has commenced and is expected to take 5 years to complete.
  • The project is located on the Lualaba River in the province of Katanga, about 65 km away from Kolwezi in the southern extreme portion of the DRC.
  • The project forms part of a joint venture between DRC-owned mining company Gecamines S.A., China Sinohydro and the China Railway Group Ltd.
  • 4 villages will be forced to evacuate their land in the Katanga region to make way for the construction of the project. 

The Busanga facility is expected to provide 170 MW to the Sicomines project and fill growing power shortages in the country. According to the DRC Chamber of Mines 2015 annual report, erratic electricity supply, in addition to other factors, reduced copper output in the country.

The shortage of electricity in Congo grew to 950 MW in 2015, an increase from 542 MW the previous year. Copper production dropped 3% to 995,805 tons in 2015 and output in the fourth quarter slumped 12% from the previous year, according to the report.

The project has recently been dogged in controversy over the compensation and relocation of the inhabitants of four villages. In a statement released on July 17, the provincial minister asked residents who had already received compensation to evacuate their homes by July 29 to allow Sycohydro to start the basin digging operations.

Eleven civil society organizations are warning of the threat to at least four villages in Busanga. These NGOs active in the governance of the energy sector wrote to the provincial minister of the interior of Lualaba asking him to postpone the 12-day period granted to the inhabitants of the villages, Kamalenge, Monga Lubuza and Wafinya who are being asked to leave. They want the deadline to extend to a final and satisfactory compromise for all parties.

The organisations stress that the implementation of the Busanga Hydroelectric project is part of the Chinese contract, which aims to revive the country’s economy on the one hand and improve the well-being of people on the other hand, however, this project should respect human rights and integrate the demands of local communities in its evolution.

They have called on the Minister to involve other ministries, state services and other stakeholders to ensure the protection and respect of the rights of local communities in the process of relocating and relocating populations from the Busanga Hydroelectric project.

Project history

The Sino Congolaise des Mines (Sicomines) was the most significant Chinese investment project in Africa when it was agreed in 2007. The infrastructure agreement gave Chinese partners mining rights to cobalt and copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These minerals are used in electric vehicle batteries and electronics, including smartphones and laptops. In exchange, China agreed to build much-needed infrastructure projects such as urban roads, highways and hospitals.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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