Power – fear of more
cuts to the mining industry
is strong this week
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 19 March, 2008 – While the threat of a new power cut to South Africa’s vital gold and platinum mines receded yesterday, State-owned power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd warned that it was still load-shedding, and that the risk would remain high until at least tomorrow.

After warning in the morning that power could be cut to the mines, reports Reuters, Eskom said the two generators that had been down were back in operation, and two more would be restored by last night. “The risk is reduced a bit with the stations coming back on, but we are still load shedding and the risk remains high until Thursday,” an Eskom spokesperson told Reuters.

The electricity grid supplying Africa’s biggest economy came close to collapse in January, the news agency explained, forcing gold and platinum mines to shut down for five days. Since then mines have been operating below full power, driving up precious metal prices and raising fears of possible job losses and slowed growth, it added.

Eskom reported yesterday that nine generators had tripped, and another nine were down for planned maintenance. South Africa has a total of about 160 generators.

Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said the power problem was compounded by persistent rain in north-eastern Mpumalanga province, where coal mines and the utility’s coal-fired power stations are concentrated. Wet coal is difficult to handle.

Eskom has re-started a programme of rolling black-outs, known as load-shedding, and many Johannesburg suburbs – including the Sandton financial district – were without power yesterday and this morning, causing heavy congestion and delays as traffic lights failed.