Four South African power plants have fewer than 10 days of coal, with the country’s power utility planning on trucking and railing supplies Photo: Saliem Fakir/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Four South African power plants have fewer than 10 days of coal, with the country’s power utility planning on trucking and railing supplies from a facility in the Limpopo province to the stations in Mpumalanga that’s about 400 kilometers (249 miles) away.

The constraints at the plants in the eastern province of Mpumalanga are mainly because the company that supplies them is under business rescue, Khulu Phasiwe, a spokesman for state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., said on Johannesburg-based SAFm radio Monday. The plants are supplied by mines owned by Tegeta Exploration and Resources Ltd., a company linked to members of the politically connected Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments Ltd.

Eskom plans to transport coal from its delayed Medupi power plant in Limpopo to the facilities in Mpumalanga, and plans to build an alternative, dirt road to move the fuel so as not to compromise existing freeways, Phasiwe said. The utility is also in talks with state rail company Transnet Holdings SOC Ltd. to move the coal by train.

Oakbay said in August that it agreed to sell Tegeta for 2.97 billion rand ($247 million) to Swiss company Charles King SA. The disposal was expected to be concluded in 12 months, Oakbay said at the time.

South Africans endured rolling blackouts in 2008 and again in 2014 and 2015 due to insufficient coal supply and a lack of investment in new plants. The lack of electricity curbed growth in the continent’s most-industrialized nation, according to economists.

“Out of our 15 coal-fired power stations, 10 of them have less than 20 days. Clearly this is contrary to what the regulator has prescribed,” Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said.

- BLOOMBERG/ REUTERS