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Ассоциация угольных предприятий

Работа наша – дело не простое,

Но в нем своя таится красота:

Недаром уголь дышит теплотою -

От рук шахтерских эта теплота.


06.05.2010 опубликовано интервью председателя правления Ассоциации Автономова К.В. издательству Аргус Медиа Лимитед

В апреле 2010 года Ассоциацию посетили представители издательства Аргус Медиа Лимитед. В ходе встречи состоялась беседа председателя правления Ассоциации Константина Автономова с редактором указанного издательства Натальей Борцовой. В результате 6 мая 2010 года в 9 номере издания Argus Russian Coal было опубликовано содержание беседы о нынешнем положении частных шахт Украины, их проблемах и перспективах.

Ниже приведена перепечатка статьи (источник – Argus Russian Coal, Issue No 9, Thursday 6 May 2010. Интернет-сайты издательства: www.argusmedi­a.com, www.argus.ru).

Ukraine’s small mines focus on quality

Last year was especially difficult for small coal mines in Ukraine, not only because of the economic downturn, which caused a sharp decline in coal demand, but also because Ukraine’s gover­nment lent support to state-owned mines, sidelining small private-sector producers. In October 2008, the cabinet ordered state-owned utilities to buy coal from state-owned mines through state-owned broker Ugol Ukrainy. Small producers were consequently sidelined from the largest part of the domestic market, the power sector. Their desperate situation prompted miners to hold public protests in front of the government offices in Kiev in May last year, in an attempt to draw attention to their plight, but with no success.

Ukraine’s incre­asing demand for coal since the end of last year has helped ease small mines’ woes, now that they can sell their output. But small private-sector producers continue to suffer from high taxes, a lack of credit and excessive state control. All this is especially painful because many mines are old, with difficult geology, depleted reserves and outdated equipment. But small producers managed to survive through the economic crisis, largely because of their investment in coal preparation. Improvement of coal quality is helping them find new customers for their coal in the steel, cement and sugar industries as well as in the international market.

Two associations unite small private-sector producers in the country — Ukraine’s Coal Union and the Coal Enterprises Association (CEA). The CEA was formed in 2007 and represents 10 companies involved in coal production and preparation. CEA board chairman Konstantin Avtonomov outlined the problems — and hopes — of its members in an interview with Argus in Lugansk in April. Edited highlights follow:

How much coal did CEA members produce in 2009 and how much do they plan to produce this year?

Coal output by Ukraine’s small mines more than halved in 2009 compared with 2008, when they produced 3mn t of coal. The main reason for this was a lack of demand for coal in the domestic market. CEA members’ production was in line with the general trend. In 2008, members of the association produced about 450,000t of coal and only about 150,000t last year. We plan to produce about 300,000t this year.

What about the market for small mines’ coal production — has the situation changed since the first half of last year?

The market situation was catastrophic in the spring and summer of 2009. Mines either put coal in storage or stopped produc¬ing altogether. State-owned utilities stopped buying coal from private-sector producers in October 2008, after the decision was taken by the cabinet, and cancelled purchase agreements that had already been signed. As a result, we lost the major market inside the country — power generation sector. The situation has not changed. When this happened, small mines and coal preparation facto¬ries began to look for new markets and to improve the quality of their output. There is now demand from steel mills for anthracite of small sizes of 0–6mm with an ash content of 10–16pc. Cement and sugar producers are buying coal of bigger sizes. They had switched to gas when it was cheap but are now turning back to coal. Coal from small mines is also exported. It is being supplied to Bulgaria, Moldova, Germany, Poland, Turkey and Canada. But the western buyers are cautious in dealing with producers from Ukraine, especially small ones. Another limiting factor is the sul¬phur content, which is relatively high.

What coal do small mines produce?

The CEA’s members mostly produce anthracite, but also T-grade steam coal. The ash content of coal is generally under 28pc while the sulphur content fluctuates between 0.5pc and 3pc. We realised the need to improve coal quality as far back as 2007. There was an understanding that small enterprises will not survive without improving quality. At that stage, the association’s mem­bers owned three coal washing factories. In 2008, CEA members installed seven units for dry coal preparation, which were manufactured in China. This method is cheap — these units allow us to reduce the ash content by 10pc at a cost 6 hyrvnia/t ($0.76/t). These units also allow the producers to improve the coal quality at the mine, meaning producers do not need to transport it elsewhere. In 2009, when producers had to win new consumers, the qual¬ity issue became especially acute. It directly affects the price of coal. Anthracite with an ash content of 10pc can be sold for 600 hyrvnia/t, but if the ash content is 5pc, the price will be 1,000 hyrv¬nia/t. The sulphur content is not of much importance for Ukraine’s domestic market. All CEA members now have some form of coal preparation facility.

What are the main problems that small mines face now?

The main problem is the state’s regulation of the steam coal market, and coal sales to power stations through state-owned broker Ugol Ukrainy. Agreement with the state puts the small producers into unfa¬vourable position because it provides no payment guarantees. According to this agreement, Ugol Ukrainy should pay for coal supplied within a month after delivery, but past experience shows that this deadline may be violated. Ugol Ukrainy says it faces delays in payment from utilities. And when the money comes it first pays state-owned mines, while private-sector suppliers are the last in the queue. Market liberalisation is required — coal should be bought by utilities through open tenders, as before, and coal trade should be allowed through exchanges. We now have a wholesale market with just one buyer — Ugol Ukrainy — and prices set by the state. This situation not only obstructs the development of the coal industry but also creates room for corruption.

Is this the only problem?

Another problem is the high tax burden. This is felt especially in summer, when there is a seasonal fall in demand for coal and high taxes, reaching 92pc of revenue, which drives producers into the red. Last year was especially hard, because of a lack of demand and very low coal sales. Frequent checks by various controlling bodies create yet another serious problem for small mines, because it takes time and causes stress. In trying to stem illegal coal production, they come to legally operating small mines. The number of unplanned checks should, at least, be cut. The licensing procedure for coal production is lengthy and com¬plicated. It has to be simplified if the government wants to attract private-sector investment in the coal sector.

Do you have any problems with coal transport?

When transporting coal by rail we usually face two problems — the railcars are very old and in poor condition and coal is often stolen from the railcars, especially when they move to export destinations. There is also a railcar shortage. State-owned rail operator Ukrsaliznitsya gives priority to state-owned mines and sends the railcars to them. Private-sector rail operators are not interested in transporting our tonnage because it is not significant.

What are your expectations following the change in Ukraine’s gover­nment earlier this year? Will the number of private-sector mines increase?

The consolidation of power allows us to hope for positive changes in the economy in general and in the coal sector. I think we may expect privatisation in the coal industry, primarily of unprofitable mines. There are many old mines with worn out equipment. Private-sector investors would be interested in developing them because of the coal shortage in Ukraine. But if the government offers mines on the same conditions as in 2008 — that they pay their debts — then nobody will buy them. The government could help investors take credits for upgrading the mines. It costs about 100mn hryvnia to start up a mine. Private-sector mines emerged in Ukraine in the 1990s, when many state-owned mines were shut. We breathed life into the enterprises that government had given up on and created jobs where the govern¬ment had left people in the lurch. Private-sector investment could revive the industry.

Стоимость строительство домов из бревна.