Load shedding
Photo credit: UMS Group

South Africa’s unprecedented move to Stage 6 load shedding on the evening of 9 December after Eskom declared a power system emergency due to a shortage of generation capacity saw two South African mining companies resultantly close their underground mining operations.

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Diamond miner Petra Diamonds has received a notification from Eskom requesting that it reduce load to ‘essential loads level’, with the result that Petra is in the process of halting its diamond mining operations in South Africa, which include the Cullinan, Finsch and Koffiefontein mines.

Production, hoisting and processing have stopped with immediate effect on the evening of 9 December and the company is in the process of removing all people from underground, except those required for essential services, with only pumping to prevent flooding and ventilation for safety being allowed.

Meanwhile, gold miner Harmony Gold Mining Company has called off its underground shifts due to continued load shedding.

The company also received a request from Eskom on the afternoon of 9 December to lower its power consumption. Harmony has therefore reduced power consumption at its South African operations to levels required only for the maintenance of emergency services.

In the interest of safety and due to reduced power supply, night shift employees at Harmony’s South African underground operations did not go underground on the evening of 9 December and the 10 December day shift employees, similarly, will stay on surface.

“We will resume shifts as soon as Eskom is able to provide us with the assurance that power supply will be more reliable,” says Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony.