For public enterprise Electric Power Industry of Serbia – EPS, the mining sector represents one of the most important business segments and the backbone of electricity production. The announcement of new investments in electricity and mines provides an incentive for EPS to accelerate previously launched projects and launch as many new ones as possible soon.
Without investing in existing production capacities and building new ones, there can be no stable energy future, and the current and planned investment projects in EPS confirm that the country’s largest energy company has a secure future. At various locations there are increasingly more works, construction sites and launched projects.
When many jobs in the region and around the world halted in 2020, EPS’s investments reached a value of almost half a billion euros, while development projects undertaken over the last five years were worth around two billion euros. Plans indicate that next year should be the most successful for EPS in terms of investment, enabling Serbia’s largest energy company to guarantee energy supply stability for approximately 3.6 million customers.
Although many projects found themselves stalled or on the brink of termination just a few years ago, the efforts of EPS management and experts led to an investment cycle being launched. The objective is for EPS to improve existing thermal power plants, hydro power plants and mining mechanisation, to open modern mines and build new “green” power plants. The announcement of new investments in electricity production and mines provides an incentive for EPS to accelerate previously launched projects and launch as many new ones as possible soon.
The mining sector is one of the most important business segments for EPS and represents the backbone of electricity production. As much as 70 per cent of electricity in Serbia is generated from coal, as a domestic resource, and that represents the main pillar of our country’s energy independence. At the same time, the aim is to strive to bring coal production in line with European norms, to maximally modernise the production process and improve environmental protection conditions. That’s why projects to improve production at the Kolubara Mining Basin and the Drmno Open pit mine in Kostolac have been realised with commitment for years. About 39 million tons of coal is extracted annually from these two branches of EPS.
A “green” project has been completed at the Kolubara Mining Basin, bringing improvements to coal mining technology, ensuring uniform quality of lignite, the increased efficiency of thermal power plants and reductions in negative impacts on the environment. This complex project was implemented through three mutually connected parts. The first included the procurement of a new ECS System (excavatorconveyors- spreader) for the production of tailings at the Field C open pit mine, the second saw the procurement of interlayer overburden for Tamnava-West Field, while the third included the management of coal quality and homogenisation in the western part of the lignite basin. This “green” project has a value of 181 million euros. It has been financed by loans from the EBRD (80 million euros) and KfW (65 million euros), with help provided by the German government (nine million euros) and the participation of EPS (27 million euros).
One extremely important part of this “green” project is the introduction of the system for managing the quality of coal and homogenisation in the western part of Kolubara. Thermal power plants will be supplied with coal of a balanced quality, thus ensuring that their work will also be more efficient. Studies have shown that this will reduce the consumption of coal at thermal power plants, while emissions of harmful gases will also be reduced, along with the levels of ash and slag. The uniform quality of lignite increases the utilisation of boilers at the Nikola Tesla Thermal Power Plants and provides for a product of guaranteed quality. The Kolubara Mining Basin has to date had varied quality of supply, depending on the deposit. In future, software and sensors will ensure that they know at any time how much coal has been mined and what kind, which will enable homogenisation and balanced supplies to thermal power plants.
The opening of new, modern mines is one of EPS’s key investment jobs. The new Field G Mine is working already, while projects to open Field E are also being implemented, which is the reason that relocating part of the Peštan riverbed has been initiated, as well as the opening of the Radljevo Mine. With this EPS will have secured additional quantities of coal until the middle of the century. At the Radljevo Open pit mine, which is Kolubara’s youngest active mine, product has been extracted since October 2019. Given that production from this mine will contribute significantly to the certainty of coal and electricity production in the thermal sector, the Radljevo Mine is of extremely great importance to the Kolubara Mining Basin and EPS as a whole. That’s why miners working at this mine have a major job to do when it comes to extracting overburden as efficiently as possible, in order to reach the first tons of coal. Total investments for the entire period of exploitation at this mine are around 977 million euros. The key objective of opening the Radljevo Mine is to provide replacement capacities for the Field D and Field C mines. It is estimated that reserves total more than 300 million tonnes of coal.
Another major EPS investment project is the construction of the new unit B3 at Kostolac. Alongside the construction of a new unit of 350 megawatts, a new Excavator-Conveyor-Spreader system was procured that will enable an increase in coal production at the Drmno Mine from the current nine million tonnes of coal per year to 12 million. This ECS system is worth as much as 97.6 million U.S. dollars.
On the Kostolac-West stretch near Velika Morava, research has confirmed that a rich coal deposit exists that could yield 350 million tonnes of coal. An additional advantage is the fact that the complete overburden consists of the highest quality Moravian gravel, which can be used in the construction industry. Study documentation for the opening of the Western Kostolac coal deposit is in the final phase. Investments of 100 million euros are expected in the coming years, to cover the basic mechanisation of the open pit mine. The start of excavations to clear the overburden from the open pit mine is expected to being in 2025, with the exploitation of coal expected to commence in 2028.
Every investment job also includes the participation of domestic companies, which is very important for the country’s economic growth.
Energy crops at RB Kolubara
EPS recently signed a letter of intent with company E3 International, within the scope of the SLLES project that’s supported by the Austrian Development Agency, on the implementation of a pilot project to plant energy crops on the site of one of the RB Kolubara mines. The idea is to establish plantations of fast-growing willows on 3.8 hectares, in order to make maximum use of the territory and reclaim land where coal was previously mined. This contributes to better protecting the environment and provides a cleaner energy resource.
EPS has a direct impact on GDP growth equating to three per cent at the annual level, as well as another three per cent provided indirectly, through construction and other industries. The production of electricity from all resources and the implementation of environmental protection projects contribute to a sustainable energy balance and enable important competitiveness for the Serbian economy. That’s why it will also be essential to include domestic companies in all future projects.