By David Lewis and Alphonso Toweh
MONROVIA (Reuters) – Mining firms Vale of Brazil and Israeli-owned BSGR are to help Liberia in the West African state’s bid to raise its power production from virtually nothing to 1,000 megawatts, the minister involved said.
Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Eugene Shannon also said Vale had an agreement to ship through Liberia iron ore due to be mined with partner BSGR in neighbouring Guinea, but noted Vale was not in talks over a mining concession in Liberia itself.
“(They are) going to rebuild the hydro plant on the St Paul River that (once) gave 64 MW,” Shannon told Reuters late on Friday.
Liberia is rebuilding after 14 years of virtually constant conflict, which ended in 2003. It has struck six major iron ore deals with foreign firms, with investments totalling over $10 billion, but the country’s infrastructure remains in tatters.
Shannon said it would take 2-1/2 years to revamp the Mount Coffee hydro plant, radically boosting the country’s power production levels, which are currently about 10 megawatts and leave most Liberians in the dark.
“We are looking at the entire St Paul River. We are trying to invite investors, donors and other people and see how they can invest in the St Paul River,” he said, saying an investor conference would take place on October 18 in Monrovia.
“We can go from 64 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts,” he said.
By comparison, nearby Ghana, whose population of 25 million is around six times that of Liberia, has an installed capacity of 2,000 megawatts.
Liberia’s National Investment Commission said in April that Vale and the government were in talks over a possible iron ore concession, which would be the sixth major deal struck with a foreign firm in the last five years.
But Shannon said the only other agreement was over the transiting of Guinean ore through Liberia: “No talks as yet (on a mining concession),” he said, without elaborating further.
“They are going to bring ore from Guinea, through Liberia to the port of Buchanan. They are going to first begin utilizing the existing facility, the rail and the port, and later on they will build a rail and a port after three years of so.”
The railway between Buchanan and Liberia’s north is being revamped as part of a $1.6 billion investment by steel giant ArcelorMittal .
Liberia is also hoping to tap into newly established oil fields on its western border with Sierra Leone, where a major find was made last year. Shannon said U.S. major Chevron was expected to start drilling before the end of the year.
“We have 17 offshore blocks. It is encouraging because the geological and physical structures are the same (in Liberia as in Sierra Leone) … It looks fantastic.”
Source: Reuters Image: embassyofliberia.org.uk