Congo hopes to start construction of Inga 3 project early 2017
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LONDON (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo will decide soon on the consortium to help develop the long-delayed Inga 3 hydroelectric project and hopes work can start by the end of 2016 or early 2017, the prime minister said on Wednesday.
The project, to be built along the river Congo, would be an expansion of two existing Inga hydroelectric dams, making it potentially the world's largest hydropower site.
"The project is in very advanced stages, we are in the selection process ... to decide who will be the main players in this project," Augustin Matata Ponyo told reporters on the sidelines of an African investment conference in London
"Ideally, towards the end of 2016, or beginning of 2017, we will start construction."
Congo is Africa's top copper producer and also exports significant quantities of gold, cobalt and tin.
Matata Ponyo also said Congo wasn't worried about China, the world's biggest copper importer.
"There is not concern yet about the lower growth rates in China," he said, adding demand for the metal was holding up. "After all, growth is still at more than 6 percent in China, that is still quite high."
Mining represents some 20 percent of gross domestic product in the Central African nation, though production has suffered from lower commodity prices as well as power shortages.
Matata Ponyo also confirmed that growth would come in at 7.7 percent this year and at 9 percent in 2016, adding he expects inflation of 0.8 percent and 1.0 percent respectively.
Congo's economy grew by 9.5 percent in 2014, according to the government, which cut its growth forecast for 2015 to 7.7 percent from 8.4 percent earlier in November, citing weak commodity prices and lower mining output. [ID:nL8N13I4C6]
(Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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