Zambia will increase power rationing to domestic consumers while supplies to mines will be allowed to continue, following a technical fault that has disrupted electricity imports from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Monica Chisela, the senior public relations manager at Zambia utility Zesco, said on Friday that Zambia had been unable to secure power imports from the DRC for more than one week following a technical glitch.

The Congo line has been off for about one week now and we only hope it can work as soon as possible, but given that the mines are critical loads, other consumers should anticipate increased load shedding, Chisela said.

Chisela said Zesco would later on Friday also shut down one 180-megawatt (MW) power generating machine at the hydro electric Kariba North Bank power station for about one week for routine maintenance, and that would lead to more rationing of power.

Chamber of Mines of Zambia (CMZ) president, Nathan Chishimba said none of the mines had so far complained of power problems since the imports from DRC stopped.

To best of my knowledge no one has complained. We believe that the Copperbelt Energy Company, which gets the power from Zesco, has a good load management strategy, Chishimba said.

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

Official data shows that Zambia's power utility, ZESCO generates 1,190 MW, short of the peak national demand of 1,400 MW.

The state firm 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. (Reporting Chris Mfula; editing by James Jukwey)