IMPORTED COAL UNDERMINES DOMESTIC MARKET
The import of coal will force many Bulgarian mines to stop production, representatives of employers from the branch and of miners' syndicates said during the week. A large part of the coal coming to Bulgaria from the Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam and Chile is intended for the local thermoelectric power plants and are tax-free. Most of them, however, are processed by small installations for briquettes. The bigger ones are packed and sold to the population, and the smaller ones are forwarded to the power stations. As a result, distributors gains about BGN10-15/ton and undermine the domestic market said Vladimir Topalov, Chairman of the miners' federation with the Podkrepa trade union. According to him, the problem is most serious in Northeastern Bulgaria where the Rousse and Varna thermoelectric power plants work on imported coal only and where the highest quantities of 'illegal briquettes are sold. At the same time, the management of the Bobov Dol thermoelectric power station has asked that in 2005 all mines supplying coal to the plant should cut down their output by 20% and decrease the price by 30%, Pencho Tokmakchiev, chairing the miners' federation with the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions In Bulgaria (CITUB), said. If that happens, the Pirin mine should lay off 300 miners, and Bobov Dol - 500 of its workers. The other mines near Pernik, Kyustendil and Blagoevgrad will also face bankruptcy. Syndicates insist that the Energy Ministry introduces protective customs duties in order to render Bulgarian coal competitive on the domestic market. The only protective clause in the Energy Act is article 4, under which the Energy Minister is entitled to set a total annual quota of 15% for mandatory purchase of electricity from producers using domestic coal. Currently, thirteen mines are operating in the country. Ten of them are private and three are state-owned.