Threat recedes of power cut to SA mines

Two Eskom electricity-generating units were restored on Tuesday and two more should be back on line in the evening, removing any immediate threat of power cuts to mines, Eskom said.

Nine generating units tripped over the past few days, and earlier on Tuesday the utility’s spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said the power situation was “extremely serious”.

He warned that in the unlikely event of more failures, power to mining companies would have to be cut.

Nto Rikhotso of Eskom’s media desk said on Tuesday afternoon two units had been restored since Etzinger spoke, and two more were expected to come back on stream on Tuesday evening. Asked about the possibility of cuts to mines, she said: “Not at this stage.”

Rikhotso said mines were operating on rationed power, and the plan was that this would be “ramped up” in stages.

An announcement on Monday that Gold Fields had been allocated additional power for use at its Kloof and Driefontein gold mines formed part of this process. “It’s going to be done for all of them,” she said.

The move increased the total power available to 95% of Gold Fields’s average consumption.

In January, power shortages forced gold and platinum mines to shut down for five days.

Trade union Solidarity announced on Tuesday its leaders would hold an “emergency” meeting on Tuesday afternoon over fears of fresh power cuts to mines.

“Reinstituting power restrictions for mines may rapidly lead to the loss of thousands of jobs,” Solidarity said.
“Among the proposals to be discussed this afternoon is the appointment of a special task team by President [Thabo] Mbeki, and possible legal remedies if workers should lose their jobs due to the Eskom crisis.”

Solidarity also said South Africans could not afford the revised 24% tariff increase Eskom was reportedly seeking. It urged the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to reject Eskom’s request.

Rikhotso confirmed Eskom would on Tuesday afternoon lodge an application for a tariff increase, but she could not confirm the 24%. She said Nersa would open up a public participation process once the request was lodged.

“It’s their prerogative to communicate what we have submitted to them,” she said.

Nersa late last year granted Eskom a 14,2% hike for the 2008/09 financial year.—Sapa

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