Work at Eskom’s Medupi plant suspended after protests

2013-01-16 16:49

Construction of South Africa’s 4 764 megawatt Medupi coal-fired power plant, meant to plug an electricity shortfall, was suspended due to protests at the site and nearby, a spokesperson for state-owned utility Eskom has said.

Some 600 contract workers held protests at the site and a few thousand disrupted transport to the construction area, forcing contractors to send workers home to ensure their safety, said Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe, who did not give the reason for the protests.

“We are working on getting the operations back to normal as soon as possible. Medupi is still expected to produce first power to the grid by the end of this year,” she said.

The first of six units at the Medupi plant, already delayed by more than a year due to problems with boiler contracts, was expected to start generating electricity late this year.

Eskom is walking a tightrope to keep power flowing to factories, mines and smelters that had to shut for several days five years ago when the national grid nearly collapsed, costing the economy billions of dollars in lost output.

Electricity supplies were expected to remain tight until Medupi and another coal-fired plant, Kusile, become operational.

This week's protests follow disruptions at the site in September last year, when around 80 contract workers damaged vehicles and equipment in an illegal protest over labour issues.

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