* Govt seeks to balance domestic, export interests
* Says decision will not be unilateral, will engage industry
(Adds details, background)
CAPE TOWN Jan 30 South Africa has designated
coal a "strategic resource", a move that could limit exports to
protect supplies for domestic power plants, mining minister
Susan Shabangu said on Wednesday.
State-owned power utility Eskom relies on coal to generate
85 percent of the electricity that powers Africa's biggest
economy. It has raised concerns about the quality and quantity
of coal received from mining producers.
Eskom has said coal producers have been favouring exports
over supplies to the utility given higher returns in the export
"Our intention is to ... ensure there is a balance between
security of supply locally but also without losing the global
markets," Shabangu told a coal conference in Cape Town.
South Africa is one of the world's largest suppliers of
thermal coal, shipping its product to Europe and fast-growing
markets in Asia.
"We have not decided if it is going to be an export levy or
the nature of that. Those are some of the debates in which we've
got to engage," she added.
Shabangu said the decision would not be "unilateral" and
would seek to balance the country's and the producers'
Coal producers in South Africa include Anglo American
, BHP Billiton , Exxaro and
Eskom is walking a tightrope to keep power flowing to
factories, mines and smelters that had to shut for several days
five years ago when the national grid nearly collapsed, costing
South Africa's economy billions of dollars in lost output.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing
by Ed Cropley)