Govt, miners negotiate on energy price hikes

kwadwo_baah-wiredu_05.jpgMining companies in Ghana are negotiating with the government to seek a
reduction in a 100 percent power rates increase resulting from an
official move to cut electricity subsidies, the mines chamber said on
Tuesday.

Ghana’s
government announced last week it would cut electricity subsidies for
mining companies from July 1, as record oil prices threaten to eat into
the country’s budget and growth rate. Finance Minister Kwadwo
Baah-Wiredu said the measure went into force on Tuesday as scheduled.

The
government had informed companies operating in the country that they
would from now on be paying an average 22 cents per kilowatt hour, up
from the current 11 cents.

But Ghana’s mining industry, which
includes major miners AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont Mining Corp, was
pressing for a reduced increase.

“We are still negotiating. The
issues are serious and delicate, so we need time to negotiate,” Chamber
of Mines Chief Executive Joyce Aryee said in Accra.

Aryee
declined to give details of proposals discussed on Monday at a meeting
between the chamber and the Volta River Authority power utility.

“We will come out at the appropriate time with the details as we deem necessary,” Ms Aryee said.

Finance
Minister, Baah-Wiredu, however noted that he was aware the mining
companies were seeking a reduced increase in power rates, but said the
government was sticking to its plan.

“We haven’t changed the implementation date, neither have we revised the proposed rate.

We
will continue to dialogue with them and let them come to terms with the
fact that we can no longer subsidise their operations,” the minister
added.

The mining industry said the new electricity tariff level
proposed by the government would have a major cost impact on
operations, particularly for those companies with underground
activities which consumed a lot of power.

“It’s serious … our operations will suffocate. Jobs will be on the line if this happens,” they added.

“We
have all agreed on the general principle that we should pay a little
more than we are doing now, but the margins being proposed are what we
want to negotiate,” he added.

Economists have cited utilities
subsidies as a factor in a weakening cedi currency which has lost 12.5
percent of its value against the dollar in the past three months.

Ratings
agency Fitch mentioned subsidies as a factor in Ghana’s growing fiscal
deficit when it downgraded its outlook for the country to “stable” from
“positive” in February.