An $850 million road project, connecting copper and cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and an East African port, will significantly reduce the existing travel distance by over 150 miles, the company building it has disclosed.
On Monday, Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi and Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema initiated construction at the location where a crucial component of the route, a 345-meter (1,130-feet) bridge spanning the Luapula River that serves as a border between their nations, will be built.
Mauritius-based GED Africa, which is backed by Duna Aszfalt Zrt., a Hungarian construction firm, will build the road.
Major construction works will begin after the rainy season that’s about to start, and will take three years to complete, GED said in reply to emailed questions on Tuesday. The project also includes one-stop border posts between Zambia and Congo and tolling plazas.
This new route is expected to alleviate congestion issues that have been plaguing mining companies in their efforts to transport supplies to copper and cobalt operations in Africa’s largest producer.
Usually, trips over existing routes can take more than a month because of congested border crossings and poorly maintained roads. As the production of critical metals to the energy transition expands transportation will become an even bigger problem.
“Copper, cobalt, lithium and other minerals mined in the region are critical to renewable energy technology and a low carbon future,” GED said. “The green energy transition has increased demand exponentially and as production volumes increase, road modernization is critical.”
The upgrade, construction, and extension of an 184-kilometre (114-mile) highway will facilitate faster transportation for truckers commuting from Lubumbashi in Congo to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.
GED has entered discussions with the Trade and Development Bank and the African Finance Corporation regarding funding. The project’s financing structure is planned to comprise 70% debt and 30% equity from the company itself.