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South African miners hit again by Eskom’s power cuts

South African miners hit again by Eskom's power cuts

Mining companies in South Africa have aired concerns of being affected by frequent and prolonged power cuts enacted by state power utility Eskom. This follows recurring breakdowns and failures at several of the country’s coal-fired power stations.

Spokeswoman at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), one of the world’s largest platinum producers Jana Marais said the company’s South African operations have been affected by Eskom’s load shedding and load curtailment.

“While we have emergency-response plans to manage risks and evacuate employees safely in the event of power outages, load shedding has had an adverse impact on our operations,” Marais said, noting that the company would continue to support the utility as it works to improve the reliability of its fleet.

Embedded generation projects

Amplats suggested that the creation of a supportive investment environment for embedded generation projects would add additional power to the national grid, ease the burden on Eskom, and facilitate development of sustainable energy solutions that will unlock economic growth in South Africa.

According to Aleix Montana, Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, South Africa’s chronic power supply problem has long dogged its economic outlook. Montana noted the mining sector, which is one of the main drivers of South Africa’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, will be weakened by Eskom’s inability to meet the country’s energy demand, noting that the intensity of load shedding will likely force miners to halt or reduce certain operations.

“While the economy returned to growth in the first quarter of 2021, the latest bout of load shedding will negatively impact the Q2 figures,” said the analyst.

Eskom, which generates around 95% of the country’s power, continues to implement staged power cuts across the country in response to unplanned maintenance and breakdowns at its power stations. The breakdowns at the seven plants represents a “total loss of 6,044 MW, bringing the total unplanned capacity lost to 16,118MW. In June 9, breakdowns had removed 13,995 MW of the utility’s generation capacity from its total nominal generating capacity of 44,172 MW.

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