Serbia: Kolubara mines water pumping project, new deadlines for “Tamnava” accepted by the World Bank

, News Serbia Energy

So far, about 95 percent of water has been pumped out, nearly all machines have been taken out to dry surface and are being overhauled, say in power utility EPS.

Journalists have withdrawn from the mine “Tamnava – West field”, and along with them the attention of the public as well. There is still a little bit of water and silt. According to Miloš Stojanović, President of the Committee for the implementation of the Project “The Floods Emergency Recovery,” and the Manager for Strategy and Investments in EPS, about 95 percent of the total amount of water has been pumped out so far.

Out of 187 million cubic meters of water which after May floods flowed into “Kolubara”, one of the most important coal mines in the country, another ten million cubic meters of water and silt has remained in the mine.

– All machines except bucket excavators, have been taken out to dry surface and are being overhauled. Even if the mine was completely dry, the excavation of coal on that site could not start, because at least three months is necessary in order for machines, with height up to 30 meters, to be overhauled – says Stojanović.

In the part of the mine, coal production began back in late December last year. Somewhere around those days the deadline for completion of the work expired, which, according to the contract, “Energotehnika Južna Bačka” had. After that, one, and then another annex to the contract was signed. The new deadline for the completion of pumping out is April 26th. When “Politika” visited the open pit mine in January, the management of “Kolubara” expected that the activity of pumping out would be finished by the end of February.

Stojanović explains that objective circumstances which are not the fault of the contractor have affected the extension of the deadline. With the approval of the World Bank, which is also a funder of this work, deadlines have been prolonged twice, say in EPS.

– According to the Contract, “Energotehnika Južna Bačka” should pump out at least 80 million cubic meters of water within the first 90 days, which has been done. In that sense, the contract has been complied with. At the same time, only working days are counted, and not those when water could not be pumped out due to objective circumstances – says Stojanović, adding that the ordering parties – EPS and “Kolubara” have had to comply with strict rules of the World Bank when it comes to environmental protection, silt disposal and the quality of water pumped out.

Speculations about this work appeared at the moment when the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) announced a few months ago that while pumping out the mine, “the budget has been deflated as well, that the company ‘Južna Bačka’ has no experience in this type of work, and that their partner ‘Hidro tan’, has been associated with Nikola Petrović, general manager of EMS.” After this, the World Bank has reacted, pointing out that, when it comes to this work, everything is in accordance with the rules and procedures of this international financial institution.

One of the objections was that because of the urgency of the work, EPS should fully bypass the public procurement procedure. EPS is the company which complies with the laws of Serbia and therefore had to enter into the procurement procedure, they explain. To make things even more difficult EPS did not have the adequate financial resources necessary for pumping out of water and silt from “Kolubara”, they add. That is why the discussions began with the World Bank as a funder. Due to the urgency of the work, tender was announced in late July according to the Law on Public Procurements. All activities conducted by EPS were accompanied and controlled by the World Bank, say in this company. The tender was won by a consortium of “Energotehnika Južna Bačka” and Romanian “Ness”, because they offered the lowest price (0,132 euros per cubic meter). The next best bidder was “Millennium” (0,135 euros per cubic meter). Due to the fact that “Južna Backa” has pumped out about 100 million cubic meters of water, it is expected that after the completion of the work EPS pays them slightly more than 13 million euros. In parallel with them, “Kolubara” has pumped out the water with both its own and borrowed pumps. According to tender documents and the contract “Kolubara” has retained the right to use its own resources for pumping activities.

And when it comes to the experience of the consortium, which was one of the necessary conditions of the tender, Dragan Zbiljić, general manager of “Južna Backa” pointed out a few months ago for “Politika” that he did not have one, but his Romanian partner had experience in the activities of pumping out. However, the presence of Romanian “Ness” is nowhere to be seen in the mine. Does this mean that with the withdrawal of Romanians, “Južna Backa” has remained virtually without references for this work, we have asked.

– Consortium Agreement between “Ness” and “Južna Backa” has not been terminated. Nobody has informed us as the ordering party that they have withdrawn in a legal sense. It is the relationship between two business partners – say in EPS.

“Južna Bačka” has also signed a contract with the Dutch “Van Heck” on renting pumps. If „Južna Backa” just rents pumps from “Van Heck”, why has not “Kolubara” done this directly, i.e. why having a mediator?

– The tender has been announced for the service of pumping out of water and silt, and not for the purchase of pumps. Pumps are not the only ones necessary for the activity of pumping out. That is the same as thinking that the motor is the only thing necessary to make the car run. There has been a need to set up pipes, pontoons, organize works, comply with all the rules and procedures of the funder – concludes Stojanović and finds that, when it comes to the production of coal, “Tamnava” is no longer a bottleneck.