Johannesburg, South Africa --- MININGREVIEW.COM --- January 24, 2008 - South African coal mines run by BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American Plc and Exxaro Resources Ltd. are being adversely affected by ongoing rains, which are threatening to worsen the country’s already serious current power crisis, Bloomberg News reports.
We are battling with wet conditions, Exxaro spokesman Trevor Arran told Bloomberg. “Wet coal may become a ‘massive issue’ for state-run electricity generator Eskom Holdings Ltd.,” he said.
South Africa is suffering rolling blackouts as breakdowns, maintenance work and excessive rains have put about a fifth of Eskom's capacity out of service, reports Bloomberg. Wet coal burns less easily in the company's plants, which supply 95 percent of the country's power, and blocks delivery chutes. The South African Weather Service has said that heavy rain in the north may lead to flooding.
“Coal operations are seeing significant rainfall,” BHP's Johannesburg-based spokeswoman Bronwyn Wilkinson said in an e- mail, although adding that the effect was currently “manageable”
Anglo American – the world's second-biggest mining company – said water had affected its South African open-pit coal mines in the past week, but gave no further details.
Earlier on, the head of Eskom’s Resource and Strategy Unit, Steve Lennon, told Bloomberg that rain was causing coal to slide off conveyors and block up chutes. Xstrata Plc spokesman Songezo Zibi confirmed that although production at his company’s mines had not stopped, the effects will be felt if the rain continues.
The South African Weather Service reports on its website that more widespread rain and showers are expected' over the Mpumalanga province, which is the country's biggest coal producing area.