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Permanent solutions to energy crisis being sought

Sherilee Bridge

Permanent solutions to South Africa's energy crisis are being sought, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Tuesday. "I concede that this situation impacts negatively on planned output of the country's mining operations," Sonjica said at a mining indaba.

Permanent solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis are being sought, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Tuesday.

“I concede that this situation impacts negatively on planned output of the country’s mining operations,” Sonjica said at a mining indaba.

Urging all mining companies to continue honouring their commitments to be energy efficient and innovative in conserving energy at their operations while the government “persists in securing adequate supply in the medium term”, Sonjica blamed the recent energy shortages on the unprecedented demand at the hands of faster-than-expected economic growth.

Companies operating mines in South Africa have committed to use 10% less electricity after their mines were effectively shut down by lack of electricity last month.

South African mines consume about 15% of the electricity South African power utility Eskom produces.

The South African government released its national response plan last week. The plan deals with the mandatory provisions, incentives and support programmes that will be introduced to increase energy efficiency, said Sonjica.

“This will allow for economic growth to continue on the basis of efficiency in the short and medium term while we increase our reserve margin by bringing on stream new capacity in the long term,” she said.

While Eskom’s mothballed power stations will be re-commissioned to tackle the problem in the medium term, Sonjica said it was clear that “we need to strive towards the timeous development of projects” that provide the country with integrated power and energy solutions.

Not the time for finger-pointing

Meanwhile, global resources giant Anglo American does not regard South Africa’s present electricity crisis as a “disaster”, Anglo chief executive Cynthia Carroll said on Tuesday.

Speaking during the opening session of the mining indaba, she said while the group’s substantial project pipeline requires stability of energy supplies, Anglo American did not “regard the energy challenge as a disaster”.

 

Carroll said South Africa was certainly not alone. She said Chile, Brazil and China were also suffering energy supply restrictions.

“Whatever the reasons [for the energy challenge], this is not the time for finger-pointing,” said Carroll, adding that it was necessary for all stakeholders to look for solutions.

Carroll cautioned against Afro-pessimism, where all African countries are painted with the same brush.

She said it is unhelpful, to say the least, if problems in Zimbabwe or Kenya for example are seen as problems facing all African countries.

“People tend to put all African countries into the same category,” she said.

But when looking at the continent’s strong economies such as South Africa, people do not say enough about what is being done right.

“Africa will be a prime player in the years to come,” said Carroll.

Despite this, she said, the world has been slow to stake its claim in Africa.

Africa as a continent has seen growth of 5,7% a year since 2003 and the economy in South Africa has grown at 4,5% a year in the last five years.

Carroll said Africa also remained a land of “unparalleled opportunity” for the minerals and mining industry.

While Africa covers only 20% of the world’s land mass, it accounts for 88% of global platinum reserves, 78% of diamond, 60% of manganese, 60% of cobalt and 40% of the world’s gold reserves.

Carroll also said that Anglo intends to remain a major investor in African mining going forward.

Anglo American is currently operating in eight countries in Africa, and is looking at establishing operations in five more.

Born in Africa in 1917, Anglo American today has 40% of its operations located in Africa.—I-Net Bridge

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