Thursday, December 16, 2010

Press Release: NGOs Call for a Moratorium on BHP Billiton’s Congo Smelter

International Rivers
For Immediate Release
December 16, 2010

Terri Hathaway, Africa Program Director
(cell in Cameroon) +237 70 49 14 06

NGOs Call for a Moratorium on BHP Billiton's Congo Smelter

International civil society groups have called on BHP Billiton to halt
its plans for a US$5 billion aluminum smelter and the associated $3.5
billion Inga 3 hydropower scheme in Democratic Republic of Congo, one of
the world's most corrupt and under-developed countries. The proposed
smelter would consume 2,500 MW of electricity, more than DR Congo's
entire current power supply.

In a letter to the chairman of BHP Billiton, 14 African and
international organizations urged the corporation to impose a moratorium
on the project until the Congolese government first fulfills its
commitments to bring electricity to its citizens.

An estimated 62 million Congolese people – 94% of the population – do
not have access to electricity. The Congolese government has set an
aggressive goal to increase electrification rates ten-fold within 15
years (to 60% by 2025), but has yet to explain how it intends to achieve
this target. By focusing the Congolese energy sector's attention on
developing Inga 3, BHP Billiton could derail the country's efforts
toward achieving its electrification goals – and thus damage its poverty
eradication efforts.

Daily power outages plague those few who are connected to the state's
dilapidated power grid. Despite available funding, an urgent
rehabilitation of the grid has languished since 2003 with little

The letter warns about the project's misleading economic benefits. The
proposed smelter would create very few jobs relative to the electricity
it would consume. Undisclosed power and investment contracts are
expected to cost the Congolese people by giving undue preference to BHP
Billiton. Examples from elsewhere in Africa are revealing: terms of BHP
Billiton's long-standing smelter deals in southern Africa sent
shockwaves through the region in April when they were publicly disclosed.

Says Terri Hathaway of International Rivers: "One of the world's richest
corporations is jumping the development queue ahead of some of the
world's poorest people. BHP Billiton's flagrant disregard for the
consequences of this venture is alarming."

The NGOs' proposed moratorium would halt BHP Billiton's involvement in
the Inga 3 hydropower scheme until the rehabilitation of the poorly
performing Inga 1 and Inga 2 dams has been successfully completed and
the government has prepared an action plan to achieve its electricity
access target. It would also call on BHP Billiton to refrain from any
financial agreements for Inga 3 or the proposed aluminum smelter until
the Congolese power sector has demonstrated at least two years of
successful, post-rehabilitation financial and technical operation.

Read the NGO letter to BHP Billiton:

International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization
with staff in four continents. For over two decades, International
Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers
and the rights of communities that depend on them.

International Rivers

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