Eskom said it was in talks with the business rescue practitioners working to save the Optimum coal mine. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

Johannesburg - Eskom said on Monday it was in talks with the business rescue practitioners for Optimum coal mine but denied reports that it was willing to accept a price hike to ensure continued supply.

The power utility said it was instead mulling a proposal by the business rescue practitioners to halve its monthly coal supply from the mine, which is owned by the Gupta brothers' Tegeta Exploration, to its Hendrina power station to 200 000 tonnes.

"In terms of the coal supply agreement with Eskom, Optimum Coal Mine is obliged to supply 400,000 tons of coal to Eskom’s Hendrina power station each month at the price of R201,46 per tonne. Eskom has had discussions with the business rescue practitioners with a view to ensuring that they continue to perform, in terms of the coal supply agreement, and coal supply to the power station is resuscitated without further delays. 

"Eskom is currently considering the business rescue practitioners’ proposal to reduce the monthly coal supply tonnage from 400 000 to 200 000 tonnage for the remainder of contract period given the precarious financial position of Optimum Coal Mine."

But Eskom said it wished to state categorically that to date it had not agreed to any price adjustment with the business rescue practitioners and allegations made in City Press newspaper about an agreed price increase were false.

The Sunday paper was one of several to report that, in order to keep the mine afloat, it was willing to pay more than double the current rate for coal from Optimum.

"Should Eskom decide to accept any reduction of the coal supply tonnage, as proposed by the business rescue practitioners, such will be done at the current coal supply contract price."

The power utility added that it had requested a copy of the business rescue plan for Optimum so that it "can engage amicably as an affected party".

Eskom conceded last week that it was battling with low coal stocks as winter nears, with seven power stations left with less than the required 20 days of reserves.