Fire breaks out at Eskom's power plant

Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon at Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga.
Fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon at Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga.

South Africa is once again facing the risk of loadshedding after fire broke out at one of Eskom's largest power stations on Wednesday night.

The blaze, which was confirmed by the state-owned entity, started in the afternoon at Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga, but was promptly extinguished.

Video clips of the plant's conveyor belt being gutted by fire circulated on social media on the evening.

Majuba Power Station is Eskom's second-largest power plant with an installed capacity of 4 110MW.

The power utility released a media statement, confirming that no injuries were sustained during the inferno.

"Eskom can confirm that a fire that started at the Majuba Power Station’s incline conveyor belt system from the rail offloading facility, at around 3pm this afternoon, was extinguished swiftly by the power station’s fire team. No injuries were sustained," read the Eskom media statement.

"The incident does impact on our coal delivery to Majuba Power Station which was primarily done via rail.

"We will use road delivery to offset the absence of rail transportation for the duration of the recovery of the damaged infrastructure.

"Majuba Power Station’s coal stock is healthy at over 50 days of stock. We expect that the reclamation from the coal stock and road delivery will be adequate to sustain Majuba burn.

"We will have to wait for the facility to cool down in order to start a forensic investigation to determine the cause of the fire. Once it is safe, the investigation will commence."

A worker representative, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said it was mind boggling what could have the caused the blaze because Eskom's systems enjoyed high protection from incidents like fire.

"What I know is that a 400  tonne silo conveyor belt happened to catch fire and the blaze affected the motor idlers and pulleys.

"What is strange in this incident, though, is that the fire started in the middle of the conveyor belt. Under normal circumstances, fire wouldn't break out because Eskom's equipment is highly protected and it is not easy for any Eskom installation to run when it is faulty," said the source.

He said if the conveyor belt was faulty, the protection systems would have kicked in and stopped the belt motor automatically from running. If the fault was on the cable, it would have tripped what is called the master trip, and resulted in the conveyor belt from stopping.

"Anyway I don't want to speculate what caused the fire. We will wait for the incident investigation to be concluded.

"However, we worry that such incidents are being repeated and we want to check if this particular incident was not another form of sabotage or a man-made fault, as this increases the risk of loadshedding," said the source.