France's Coal Mining Industry Gets New Power Project

More than two years since France brought up its last lump of coal and turned its back on three centuries of mining industry, a new consortium plans to reopen a pit and resume excavations. As the world faces spiraling energy costs from record high oil prices, a group of French investors have placed their bets on the black rock.

The Nivernais energy resources company (Seren) plans to crank up the machines again at France's biggest opencast mine in Lucenay-les-Aix in the Nievre area of France's central Burgundy region. "Coal that comes out of the mine will have a cost price significantly lower than that of South Africa, which arrives by boat in French ports, and it will be of comparable quality," said Francois Jaclot, president of Seren, a holding created for the project. South Africa is one of the world's top five coal exporters.

Seren's workers will excavate a seam of an estimated 70 million tons. The fossil fuel will be poured into a thermal power station with an annual capacity of 1,000 megawatts that will be built at the site. "This corresponds to one percent of France's electricity production, which is not an insignificant figure," Jaclot said.

The cost of the project is estimated at 1.4 billion euros (US$1.8 billion), including one billion for the power station. The construction phase is due to last five years and is expected to create 1,000 jobs. The station is due to come on line in 2011 and should run for at least 35 years.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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