Mining companies in Zambia collectively owe power company Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) a staggering US$20 million debt in unpaid power bills, threatening the utility company’s prospects of undertaking a facelift to its equipment and the meeting energy demands to end users.

Earlier this year, the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) approved 28.8 percent energy tariff adjustment, as a cost reflective action to enable the power company meet various obligations but the decision was not met with blessings by mining companies.

This lead to the consortium of multinational companies petitioning the courts over the matter.

Company chairperson Katema Mutale revealed that amid the legal issues, the power company says mining companies using its energy supply facilities are highly indebted to it stating that they are owed an estimated US$20 million in unpaid bills.

Mutale said this during a recent commissioning of First Quantum Minerals’ Kalumbila Mine-330 kilovolt transmission line project with a call for mining companies to accept the 28 per cent tariff adjustment as directed by Energy Regulation Board as well as pay the outstanding debts.

FQM spent US$198 million in building the power line from Lumwana and the substation at Kalumbila revealing hopes that Sentinel would be producing 120,000 tons of copper within the next three months.

Mutale expressed fears that the power company may probably fail to meet various obligations unless the outstanding debts are cleared.

The mining companies, situated mainly on the Copperbelt, get power supply through Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) which buys power from ZESCO and supplies about 530 megawatts of power to the companies for their mineral processing works.

Meanwhile, ZESCO has already lost in excess of US$100 million in the last three months after the Lusaka High Court granted the Chamber of Mines of Zambia leave to commence judicial review proceedings against the ERB’s decision.

Mutale also detailed that with the foregoing, the liquidity situation was desperate and risks affected company operations and the entire country at large.


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