light at end of tunnel?

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

The mining industry hopes that a meeting today with the government and Eskom will result in mines resuming limited production from tomorrow.

Most mines were forced to halt underground operations early on Friday morning after Eskom declared force majeure saying it was unable to guarantee minimum uninterrupted power levels.

Today marks the fifth day that mines have limited their underground operations to essential safety work.

Yesterday's production stoppage at AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa's largest gold producer, would have cost it the 8000 ounces of gold it normally produces a day. This is about R53million at the current gold price of $918 an ounce.

Its smaller rivals, Gold Fields and Harmony, similarly would have lost around 7000 ounces in production worth about R46million each.

The world's second largest platinum producer, Impala Platinum, said the power crisis had cost it about 3500 ounces of platinum yesterday. At the current platinum price of $1690 an ounce, this equated to more than R42million.

The loss emanating from yesterday's mining production stoppage was estimated at R330million by T-Sec economist Mike Schussler. AngloGold Ashanti's chief executive, Mark Cutifani, said he was confident after Saturday's emergency meeting with the government and Eskom that mines would be able to resume limited operation in a few days.

"I think that we are starting to emerge from a crisis that had the potential to undermine the viability of the South African gold industry," Cutifani said.

Meetings over the weekend resulted in mines undertaking to cut their consumption by 10percent. Eskom committed itself to give four hours' notice to mines before cutting power.

Simmer & Jack chief executive, Gordon Miller, said his group would do everything in its power to accommodate Eskom's request to reduce electricity consumption, but called on Eskom in turn to improve its communication.

"We urge Eskom to explain to the public what it is doing to deal with the deterioration of existing systems that have led to this situation.

"Between Simmers and First Uranium, we employ almost 7000 people and need to understand what measures will be put in place to avert the potentially severe unintended consequences of this system failure."