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JOHANNESBURG - Mining operations have been hard hit by the rolling power cuts that embattled state owned power utility, Eskom has been enforcing, in an effort to save power to avoid a complete nation wide black out. 

South African mining companies Harmony Gold, Impala Platinum, and Sibanye-Stillwater have been forced to cut production since Monday due to power shortages, they said on Tuesday. 

“There are very few underground mines that operated overnight and will be operating normally today,” said a spokesman for the Minerals Council, an industry body.

Harmony Gold called off its underground shifts, saying it would resume as soon as state power company Eskom could provide assurance power supply would be more reliable.

Impala Platinum has shut production at its Rustenberg and Marula mines owing to power cuts that have left it functioning at 20%-30% of normal power, a spokesman said on Tuesday. 

The platinum miner was using electricity only for essential maintenance, he added, saying: “We certainly can’t risk any attempt at production with this level of power.”

Sibanye-Stillwater shut all its deep-level mines on Monday, a spokesman said, but aimed to send miners back underground for the afternoon shift on Tuesday. 

Petra Diamonds Ltd said on Monday it was in the process halting operations at its Cullinan, Finsch and Koffiefontein mines in South Africa after state utility Eskom asked the miner to reduce its electricity load.

Production, hoisting and processing have stopped with immediate effect and Petra Diamonds is now removing all people from underground, except those required for essential services, it said in a statement.

Eskom on Monday said it would cut up to 6,000 megawatts of power from the national grid as heavy rain and flooding triggered failures at its Medupi plant.

Petra said only pumping to prevent flooding and ventilation for safety was being allowed at the mines.
Minning operations have been hard hit by the rolling power cuts that embattled state owned power utility, Eskom has been enforcing, in an effort to save power to avoid a complete nation wide black out. File photo: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
Petra, which has been fixing its balance sheet after spending much of this decade investing in its flagship Cullinan mine, said it would issue an update once its knows how long the load curtailment will last and what impact this is likely to have on its production performance.

REUTERS / BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE