Serbian power utility EPS opens new mine to boost coal output

BELGRADE, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Serbian power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) started operations on Wednesday at a new open coal pit aimed at securing supplies for its biggest power generating complex over the coming decades.

The new mine, in which the company invested 60 million euros ($71 million), will produce between 5 and 6 million tonnes of lignite a year and will boost output at the Kolubara mining basin from the current 30 million tonnes of lignite a year.

The basin in Lazarevac, central Serbia, supplies coal to the Balkan country’s biggest power plant complex, Nikola Tesla.

It was the hardest hit of EPS’s assets by floods in May 2014, which disrupted production for several months.

Serbia’s Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said state-run EPS would invest 100 million euros in another open-cast lignite mine in Kolubara next year. The mine is set to be launched in 2019, with an output of up to 6 million tonnes of lignite a year.

Serbia produces two thirds of its power in ageing coal-fired plants and the rest from hydropower. But it wants to diversify its energy mix to help meet growing demand, reduce future reliance on imports and meet the renewable energy targets of the European Union, which it aspires to join.

$1 = 0.8403 euros Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Mark Potter