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Zambia copper miner fights $132 million electricity bill

Highlights
  • Vedanta unit faces power cuts that could cripple output
  • Konkola mine is Zambia’s biggest electricity consumer

Vedanta Resources Ltd.’s Zambian unit, which is in provisional liquidation, is fighting to keep the lights on after a power company threatened to reduce supply because of a $132 million bill, according to court filings.

Konkola Copper Mines Plc, Zambia’s biggest single power user, on May 13 won an interim order from the High Court preventing Copperbelt Energy Corp. from curbing its electricity. KCM disputes the payment that CEC is demanding, and says power restrictions would cause irreparable damage to its facilities, according to an affidavit from the mining company.

The case is the latest in a series of financial troubles at KCM, which the government placed under provisional liquidation a year ago, through a state-owned minority shareholder. It’s also not the first time that CEC has moved to restrict supplies because of non-payment; there was a similar dispute in 2014.

“KCM’s non-payment for power consumed has resulted in liquidity challenges for the CEC business and exposed the company to extensive liability,” it said in response to emailed questions.

At the time of liquidation, KCM owed $47 million in unpaid bills, according to the affidavit signed by Mbobe Nyondo, the company’s energy and risk manager. While KCM said it had paid $45 million, CEC said it is still owed $132 million. The power provider then warned it would restrict supply, relying on a notice from a year ago that has since lapsed, according to Nyondo.

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The High Court in Kitwe, where KCM is based, will hear the matter on May 26. KCM didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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