Cape Town - South Africa has designated coal a
"strategic resource", a move that could limit exports to protect
supplies for domestic power plants, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said on
State-owned power utility Eskom relies on coal to generate
85% of the electricity. It has raised concerns about the quality and quantity
of coal received from mining producers.
Eskom has said coal producers have been favouring exports
over supplies to the utility given higher returns in the export market.
"Our intention is to ... ensure there is a balance
between security of supply locally but also without losing the global
markets," Shabangu told a coal conference in Cape Town.
South Africa is one of the world's largest suppliers of
thermal coal, shipping its product to Europe and fast-growing markets in Asia.
"We have not decided if it is going to be an export
levy or the nature of that. Those are some of the debates in which we've got to
engage," she added.
Shabangu said the decision would not be "unilateral"
and would seek to balance the country's and the producers' interests.
Coal producers in South Africa include Anglo American
[JSE:AGL], BHP Billiton [JSE:BIL], Exxaro Resources [JSE:EXX] and Xstrata.
Eskom is walking a tightrope to keep power flowing to
factories, mines and smelters that had to shut for several days five years ago
when the national grid nearly collapsed, costing South Africa's economy
billions of dollars in lost output.
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