The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has signed a $14bn deal with two consortia to build the Inga 3 hydroelectric dam, after more than a decade of negotiation.
The deal means the previously competing consortia, one Chinese and one European, will now work together to develop the dam. It will be the third dam to be build by DRC across the Congo River.
The Chinese consortium is led by the state owned China Three Gorges Corporation, while the European consortium is led by Spanish firm Actividades de Construcción y Servicios.
The two firms were given four weeks to submit a joint proposal on the development of the project after signing the agreement last week, Bloomberg reported.
Initially conceived more than a decade ago, the project has been repeatedly hit by disagreements between the Congolese state and building partners over the last few years. This announcement marks the first time the government has formally asked companies to develop the project.
The agreement was announced at a meeting between DRC and South Africa – which is set receive some of the power generated by the dam – the Congolese state news agency, Agence Congolaise de Presse, reported. Both countries “noted with satisfaction the conclusion of the negotiations”, it said.
“They welcomed the conclusion today of an exclusive development agreement for the imminent start of implementation studies for the resized 11,000 [megawatt] project.”
But the announcement drew criticism from NGO International Rivers, which works to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities dependent on them.
The charity said the project threatened to degrade the ecosystems of the lower Congo basin and displace more than 10,000 people, and that it would not provide energy to the millions of Congolese still not connected to the grid.
“While the Inga 3 project has emerged every few years with a different design and set of developers, its fundamental flaws remain: the risks of cost overruns, delays, crosscountry grid transmission challenges and overlooked environmental and social costs,” it said.
SM has approached the Congolese government for comment.
Inga 3 is part of a project to build three dams at different points across the Congo River worth between $50bn-$80bn, according to a Reuters estimate.
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