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BISHKEK (TCA) — The energy crisis in Kyrgyzstan forced to look for alternative sources of energy including the increase in coal production for utility consumers and the population.  The country has sufficient reserves of coal resources.  

According to the Kyrgyz Komur (Kyrgyz Coal) state-owned enterprise, Kyrgyzstan’s coal mining enterprises have extracted about 1.5 million tons of coal in 11 months of 2014, 22 percent more than in the same period last year.

Coal companies are working more stable now and have increased supply to the Bishkek heat and power plant (HPP). Due to increased load on the Bishkek HPP, it is planned to purchase additional 145,000 tons of coal, the Power Plants JSC said.

The volume of coal supplied to the Bishkek HPP increases every year. In 2012, about 150,000 tons of coal was supplied to the Bishkek HPP, last year - 283,000 tons, and since the beginning of 2014 - about 400,000 tons. The Government has given Kyrgyz Komur an opportunity to increase the supply of domestic coal.

To ensure timely delivery of coal, a consortium of 12 mining companies has been established. All coal mines are aimed at supplying the population with coal, and this year its price has decreased by 10 percent in comparison with 2013. To carry out the current heating season, the HPP needs more than one million tons of coal. Local coal is delivered from Kara-Keche and Tash-Kumyr coal mines.

This year, the low water period caused the energy crisis, and the Government ordered to increase the production of electricity at the Bishkek HPP. This requires more imported coal because the quality of local coal is insufficient for processing there. The company entered into an agreement with Kazakhstan companies to supply 500,000 tons of coal from the Shubarkol mine.

As to the quality of local coal, its ash content is quite high, in the range of 35-45% while Kazakhstan’s Shubarkol coal contains from 8 to 12 percent of ash. The unique combination of high caloric (6,000 kcal/kg) and low ash content is particularly valuable when it is used for domestic needs, for industrial and energy complexes. Besides, the Shubarkol coal is more ecologically clean than the local coal.

According to experts, the country needs to develop a national coal industry development strategy. To fully provide the population and economic entities of Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to annually produce about three million tons of coal but Kyrgyzstan produces about 1.5 million and the rest is imported from Kazakhstan.

During recent years consumption of electricity in Kyrgyzstan has increased manyfold because the population switched to electricity from other energy sources. Until 1996 consumption of coal was dozens of times higher than it is now.

In 1979, the peak year of production, 4.5 million tons of coal was mined in Kyrgyzstan.  Since then coal mining in the country dropped due to high transportation costs and use of outdated technologies in the extraction process.  Depreciation of the production assets has reached 95 percent.  

Many coal mines opened 40-50 years ago are working seams of coal which are considered uneconomical according to criteria in world practice – narrow widths, steep dips, high ash content, etc.  Management is not efficient either.  

Today more than half of the coal mined in the country is produced by the open-cut method.  All southern coal mines, including Sulukta and Kyzyl-Kiya, are working quite efficiently, although the output could be certainly better.  

If the Kara-Keche power and heating station (PHS) is constructed and operated in the Naryn province, as the Government planned, extraction of coal will increase to three million tons, experts say.  The Kara-Keche PHS could enable supply of electricity to the north of Kyrgyzstan, remove a part of the burden from the Bishkek HPP and reduce imports of expensive natural gas and coal.  

To support the capacity of the Kyrgyz coal industry, it is necessary to address all the problems in their complexity; these include promotion of investments, training of personnel, renovation of equipment, compliance with the labor safety requirements, and establishment of appropriate conditions for staff.

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