Johannesburg - A strike at the three largest platinum producers has cut power demand at South African mines, a silver lining for the constrained electricity system.

“Demand from the platinum sector is down by about 400 megawatts,” Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said, adding that it was 17 percent lower than normal demand.

Workers at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have been on strike for more than a month in a dispute over pay. The shutdown of operations has cut power demand, helping Eskom to avoid a repeat of the blackouts that affected homes, mines and factories for five days in 2008.

Other energy users have also reduced consumption after Eskom, which provides 95 percent of the nation’s power, employed emergency measures to ask them to cut electricity use twice last week as four generating units halted for unplanned maintenance.

About 23 percent of the utility’s 42 500MW of installed capacity has been out of service this year, Eskom data show.

The three platinum producers have lost R5.4 billion in revenue since more than 70 000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) walked out.

Amcu was scheduled to meet with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration yesterday, which was facilitating negotiations. - Bloomberg