Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised a deal between Eskom and BHP Billiton, which owns the aluminium smelter in Richards Bay, that allows the group to pay a fraction of what the rest of the country is charged for electricity.
BHP and Eskom concluded a deal on electricity prices in the 1990s. There have been several attempts, including court action by Media 24, to uncover the terms of the agreement.
The contract was signed when Eskom had a surplus of electricity and the government wanted to unlock the aluminium chain. Eskom agreed to supply electricity at rates allied to the price of aluminium on the open market. Since then, aluminium prices have declined and Eskom is desperately short of electricity.
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Democratic Alliance MP Pieter van Dalen on Tuesday told Parliament he knew what the company was paying.
"The information I have now is that (BHP) Billiton is paying 8.8c/kWh-10c/kWh while we are paying 120c/kWh as the aluminium price is at an all-time low," he said.
Mr van Dalen tabled these figures while presenting his party’s vote on a report by Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises.
He was supported by Independent Democrats MP Lance Greyling, who also called for an explanation of why the BHP deal was not renegotiated by Eskom in the midst of South Africa’s energy crisis.
Mr van Dalen said: "I also rise to inform this house of a travesty of justice; of one company in South Africa that uses 7.5 percent of the total electricity generated in the country, but only employs 3,000 people and contributes a minuscule 0.01 percent to our gross domestic product."
Article continues on page two: BHP and Eskom's "special pricing agreement"; a fancy term for theft from the poor (and everyone else for that matter)?