Eskom silo collapse: More questions than answers

2014-11-22 10:17

A familiar name has emerged as the company behind the collapsed silo at Eskom’s Majuba power station: Stocks & Stocks Civils.

The company made a cameo appearance during last year’s Competition Tribunal hearings into the construction cartel, where Stefanutti Stocks admitted Stocks, which it had bought in 2008, had committed seven contraventions of the Competition Act.

The Competition Commission’s Themba Mathebula said the commission, which referred the cartel’s cases to the tribunal, did not have evidence of collusive conduct regarding Majuba.

But the settlements reached with the construction cartel, which yielded fines of R1.46 billion, only focused on projects concluded after September 2006. Earlier projects are beyond the reach of the Competition Act.

Stocks built the silos at Majuba in 1994.

According to Eskom, the silo which collapsed earlier this month – prompting the power utility to implement managed blackouts, or load shedding, across the country – had the capacity to store 10 000 tons of coal and a life span of 50 years.

It is still not known what caused the collapse 30 years before the end of the silo’s life cycle.

Richard Saxby, who headed Stocks at the time the silo was built, did not respond to questions.

Earlier, Eskom’s acting group executive for technology Matshela Koko said samples would be taken from the rubble to investigate the possible causes of the collapse.

But Eskom spokesperson Andrew Etzinger declined to answer questions about the sample tests.

“The investigation has multi-dimensional activities – undertaken over different durations – whose evidence needs to be corroborated,” he said. “As such, it is totally inappropriate to report on individual steps.”

He said the utility would share the outcome of the investigation once concluded.

Salani Sithole, civil and operating manager at Majuba at the time the silos were constructed, said the design of the three silos was “more or less” similar, but the silo which had collapsed was feeding coal to units within the power station and to the other two silos. The other silos only fed coal to units within the station.

The collapsed silo also worked harder because it was the main receiver of coal from stock yards.

“I am not aware of other modifications done post-commissioning, which would normally occur to deal with coal hand-ups or replacement of coal chutes,” he said.

“Other factors could be induced vibrations due to mechanical plant or founding conditions.”

Etzinger said the utility was quantifying the insurance claim for the silo collapse, which would be submitted to Eskom’s in-house insurer Escap.?

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