MAC: Mines and Communities

BHP Billiton seeks to invest in African power

Published by MAC on 2004-02-04

BHP Billiton seeks to invest in African power

February 4, 2004

By Reuters

Johannesburg - Mining giant BHP Billiton wanted to invest in African electricity projects to leverage the massive power needs of its aluminium smelters, it said yesterday.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest diversified resources firm, has expanded its aluminium business in recent years in southern Africa, where capacity has grown to 1.36 million tons annually.

Since the process of making aluminium required huge amounts of electricity, the company was seeking opportunities to participate in energy projects, Mike Salamon, the president of the firm's aluminium division, told reporters.

"Those aluminium smelters represent a very good incentive to do something in power ... if you look at the region, there's a huge amount to be unlocked."

The firm was seeking to underwrite energy projects rather than be the operator, he said.

One area that could be interesting was hydroelectric projects in west Africa.

Last year Billiton expanded its Mozal smelter in Mozambique, doubling capacity to 506 000 tons. It consumes 900 megawatts, four times Mozambique's remaining electricity consumption.

BHP Billiton is the biggest supplier of coal to Eskom and is also its biggest customer because of its two local smelters.

BHP Billiton shares lost 85c to end the day R57.30 in Johannesburg yesterday.

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