Zambia's Copperbelt Energy Corp. (CEC), which supplies power to copper and cobalt mines, plans to bid for the development of a $1 billion hydro-electricity project, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Zambia faces a power shortage and has been rationing power supply to the mining industry -- the country's economic lifeblood -- since January.

CEC managing director Neil Croucher told Reuters in an interview his company would submit a bid to the World Bank's finance arm, the International Finance Corp. (IFC), which is advising the government on the project.

We had a meeting with the IFC delegation, which was in Zambia a few days ago, to declare that we are to position ourselves to bid for the development of the project when the time comes.

We have also had discussions with some financial institutions and we believe that it should not be difficult to secure the funding, Croucher said, not naming the banks they had approached.

The IFC together with the Zambian Government, the African Development Bank and Development Bank of Southern Africa funded the $6 million feasibility studies for the 750 megawatt project which should take six years to complete.

Croucher said the CEC was trying to identify suitable partners for the development. The firm buys power from state utility ZESCO and distributes it to the mines.

ZESCO generates 1,190 megawatts, short of the peak national demand of 1,400 megawatts. It expects to increase generation by 660 MW by early 2009 from a rehabilitation project, which would bring 450 MW and an extra 210 MW from upgraded machines.

(Editing by Phumza Macanda and Christopher Johnson)

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