Eskom tells mines to shut down

Johannesburg - South Africa's gold mines, and mining companies in other sectors, were instructed on Thursday night by electricity utility Eskom to shut their mines, possibly for up to between two to six weeks.

A letter signed by Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga said that key industrial consumers (KPI) had to reduce their power loads to "minimum levels". He added that Eskom could not guarantee power supply.

"We did not send down a shift last night and we did not send one this morning at any of our mines," said Willie Jacobsz, spokesman for Gold Fields. "I understand the situation is the same at AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony Gold," he said.

A Johannesburg analyst said, however, that smaller consumers such as Simmer & Jack Mines and DRDGold still had power, at least at present.

In the letter, Maroga said the mines were required to "evacuate all underground staff"; "suspend all surface and underground mining"; but were allowed to keep essential services operating such as pumping and lighting. Mining companies would also be allowed underground if proto-teams were required to tackle fires.

Meanwhile, the South African government is set to announce "plans for the electricity generation in South Africa," according to a media advisory issued on January 23.

Mines minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, were scheduled to address the media in Pretoria.

Harmony Gold spokesperson Amelia Soares confirmed Harmony had received a communication from Eskom saying it could not guarantee power to the mines today and requesting that Harmony only use power for emergency services on its mines.

She said the group had not sent down this morning's shift and that its mines were only operating emergency services such as pumps and ventilation fans. She told new service I-Net Bridge that the stoppage would cost the group R60m a day.

Anglo Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer which employs some 80 000 workers, has also ceased operations for today.

Spokesperson Trevor Raymond says this followed a communication from Eskom and was in line with Anglo Platinum's commitment to save power. He declined to specify the contents of the Eskom communication.

BHP Billiton spokesperson Bronwyn Wilkinson said the group had been asked to save power at its two aluminium smelters - Hillside in Richards Bay and Mozal in Maputo. She declined to provide any further details.

AngloGold Ashanti has also confirmed that its gold mines are only operating emergency services today.

- Fin24

To track this story through the course of the day, log onto Fin24 partner and specialist mining news website

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