19 March 2013

Court orders Eskom to release "secret" documents

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered Eskom to disclose how much it charges BHP Billiton aluminum smelters for electricity, reports IOL News.

Eskom sells power to the two smelters at Richards Bay and Maputo. There are suspicions BHP Billiton pays Eskom as little as 8c to 12c/kWh, while households in Durban pay over R1 for a kilowatt hour of electricity.

When both Eskom and BHP Billiton refused to release the true figures, Jan de Lange, a Media24 journalist, brought them to court under the Promotion of Access to Information Act. He argued that the sharply discounted prices could be contributing to South Africa's power crisis and rising electricity prices, and that it was in the public interest to know about them.

The court has now ruled that Eskom must disclose the information because consumers "undoubtedly have a public interest" in knowing how much they pay compared to BHP Billiton.

The Mercury quoted de Lange as saying that Eskom had not yet confirmed when the information would be released, but he expected it would happen ‘in the next day or two' if BHP did not contest the court ruling.

BHP said that while it accepted the court's decision, it opposed revising the tariff agreement that binds Eskom for another 15 years.