China renovates hydro dams in bauxite-rich Guinea

China renovates hydro dams in bauxite-rich Guinea

July 21, 2006 Filed Under: Bauxite Mining, Mining Services  

China has upgraded one hydropower dam in blackout-prone Guinea, the world’s top exporter of the aluminium ore bauxite, and plans to modernise another, state radio and diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

China has ramped up investment and diplomatic activity in Africa as it seeks new supplies of energy and raw materials to fuel its fast-growing economy.

State radio said the Guinean government took possession of the Kinkon dam at Pita, some 400 km (250 miles) north of the capital Conakry, on Wednesday after a $2.5 million overhaul and upgrade which increased its capacity to 3.4 megawatts from 3.0.

Diplomatic sources in Conakry said China was planning to renovate another hydropower dam at Tinkisso in the east of the country.

In December a Greek company, 3PL, which has a joint bauxite exploration venture with Aluminium Corp. of China Ltd (Chalco) in Guinea said it had signed a deal to build a 1.2 million tonne alumina refinery in the northeast of the country.

An alumina plant would require significant energy resources but it was not immediately clear whether the dam overhauls were linked to this development. Alumina is extracted from bauxite and then smelted into aluminium.

Despite living on top of one third of the world’s bauxite reserves, most of Guinea’s 9 million people survive on less than a dollar per day. A general strike last month over rising living costs triggered rioting in which at least 11 people died.

The government says it has spent around $500 million on its power grid and new diesel generators in recent years, but Conakry and other towns still face frequent power blackouts, which have been exacerbated by high fuel prices.

“Each one of these generators costs us the equivalent of 350 litres of diesel per hour — that’s nearly $9,000 a day at the current exchange rate,” said Sidy Diallo, spokesman for state power utility Electricite de Guinee (EDG).

In May, China offered to build a 50,000-seat soccer stadium free of charge to help Guinea’s bid to host the 2012 African Nations Cup tournament.

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

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