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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Congo's cable revamp world record
Miners with sack of minerals
Much of DR Congo's mineral reserves are yet to be exploited
The world's longest power cables in the Democratic Republic of Congo are to be repaired after decades of disrepair.

A $178m World Bank loan will help national electricity company Snel to increase power for the mining sector.

The 1,700km network runs from the Inga dam at the mouth of the Congo River to the southern Katanga region.

DR Congo has massive potential for hydro-electric power, yet correspondents say only 6% of Congolese have access to electricity.

Last year's elections marked the official end of a five-year civil war in which some 3m people died and DR Congo's neighbours became embroiled.

Much of the fighting was fuelled by the country's vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder natural resources.

The mineral reserves include gold, diamonds, 10% of the world's copper and more than a third of cobalt, used in mobile phones.


The World Bank's Sam O'Brian Kume says the project is intended to allow the mining sector to fully benefit from the Inga dam's 500 megawatt capacity.


"It will not only reinforce transmission to DR Congo's industrial heartland, but lines will also be extended to the border with Zambia to fully integrate the power system of DRC into that of the southern Africa power market," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in the capital, Kinshasa, says communities living by the Inga dam use charcoal for their fuel.

The cable refurbishment is expected to take four years and Mr O'Brian Kume says it will benefit ordinary people in time.

"The mining companies through their expansion will create job opportunities for people which will encourage other commercial activities and export revenues and taxes to the government," he said.

Our correspondent says since the end of the war, many mining deals have been signed, but the industry needs a reliable electricity supply to flourish.

In most of the deals, the state mining company gets between 15% to 20% of the profit and foreign investors take the rest.

It is envisaged that the loan will be repaid over time by Snel's commercial activities.

There is a proposal to expand the Inga dam - known as the Grand Inga project - which would have the capacity to supply electricity for the whole continent.


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