Ljubljana – The newspaper Dnevnik senses a new scandal erupting after the infamous TEŠ6 generator project, writing in a commentary on Wednesday that the Velenje coal mine, which supplies the Šoštanj thermal plant (TEŠ), is planning to buy large amounts of coal abroad.
“All the alarm bells should be ringing. But those in charge just wave their hand, saying ‘ah, it’s all right’. This is always a sure indication that we are on the track of a new scandal,” reads the piece headlined Mining Maths.
The paper notes that the planned purchase comes at a time when coal prices are record high. It has calculated the state-owned company will pay ten times the highest possible price TEŠ can pay to the mine for the Velenje lignite per gigajoule for the imported coal, instead of mining it itself.
“If you took hold of your wallet, you’re the only one,” writes the paper, adding HSE, the state-owned power group that owns the Velenje mine and TEŠ, and even the ministry in charge do not see any problem there.
The paper links the situation to the TEŠ6 corruption scandal, which erupted some 15 years ago in what it calls the biggest robbery in the country’s history, as the state-owned company likewise bought equipment for the new generator when the prices were at their highest and those responsible were trying to convince the public there was no other alternative.
“TEŠ6 was in fact built because of the Velenje mine. Its closure would be a social bomb for the region, the top energy trade unionist Branko Sevčnikar shouted at the time. They were trying to convince us we needed a plant to burn local energy product that we have in abundance, which later turned out to be a lie.”
The paper also notes that the coal that does exist in Velenje is mined at a loss as the mine generates a loss of 25 cents per every gigajoule extracted.
It wonders why the mine would not do what every clever manager would do and try to mine as much coal and possibly sell it abroad when the demand is high instead of buying it abroad, suggesting that given the lack of any other rational explanation the purchase of imported coal will be profitable for somebody.
It expects the opposition will try to find answers and may already be preparing to open a parliamentary inquiry where a former energy CEO at the government’s helm will be the most suitable target.