Australian firm in talks over massive Congo hydro project

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  • The long-mooted Inga project could eclipse China's Three Gorges Dam.
  • The project has been beset with problems, not least political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Residents and environmental activists are concerned about its impact.

Major Australian mining firm Fortescue confirmed Tuesday that it is in talks to develop what is slated to be the world's largest hydroelectric project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The firm, which is owned by Andrew "Twiggy" Forest and has been eying renewable energy investments in addition to its mining business, said it is in the running to build the Grand Inga dam across the Congo River.

"Fortescue confirms that discussions have taken place with the DRC Government in respect to the grant of exclusive rights to develop the Grand Inga suite of projects," the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

"No formal binding agreement has been concluded at this time. Should an agreement be forthcoming, the company will advise the market."

The long-mooted Inga project could eclipse China's Three Gorges Dam and provide southern Africa with a bonanza of renewable energy. But the project has been beset with problems, not least political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A series of would-be constructors have expressed interest over the last decade or more, but no project has materialised. The proposal would see a dam built near rapids across a part of the river, close to the Atlantic Ocean.

In late 2018, DR Congo authorities announced a deal for a Spanish-Chinese consortium to develop the Inga 3 hydro-electric mega-dam project on the Congo River rapids.

The project has been delayed and both residents and environmental activists are concerned about its impact.

In early 2020 Spanish construction company ACS, chaired by Real Madrid football club chairman Florentino Perez, pulled out of the scheme.

Inga 3, part of a six-phase mega-project, is expected to complement two ageing power stations built between 1972 and 1982 on the Inga falls of the Congo River.

Fortescue hopes to develop the whole project, from Inga 3 to Inga 8. In a preliminary protocol signed with the DRC government last September, the Australian company promised to recognise any existing rights in Inga 3 held by third parties

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