Coal Strikes Threaten SA’s Power Supply
From Business Report
By Dineo Faku
The wildcat strike at Exxaro Resources was continuing at five operations, the coal producer confirmed yesterday.
Five out of eight coal operations at the diversified mining company ground to a halt as workers demanded the payment of performance bonuses.
Employees were not paid the bonuses because the mines did not achieve performance goals.
About 3 500 out of 8 000 Exxaro employees had downed tools in a strike that started at the Arnot and Matla collieries in Mpumalanga last week. The strike then spread to the Grootegeluk mine in Limpopo, and the Inyanda and Leeuwpan mines in Mpumalanga.
Production at the Tshikondeni mine in Limpopo ground to a halt on Monday. However, staff had returned to work yesterday morning, Exxaro said.
Employees at Matla, Arnot, Grootegeluk, Inyanda and Leeuwpan were still out on strike, the company confirmed yesterday. The stock fell 2.41 percent to close at R165.81.
Mxolisi Hoboyi, the branch secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers at Arnot, said talks between the union and mine management were under way. The strike would continue until the demands of employees were met, he said.
“We will meet the chief executive tomorrow [today] to talk about issues; to talk about the bonuses. They [Exxaro] have put a number of proposals on the table.”
The strikes would place pressure on the national electricity grid ahead of peak demand in winter as coal production came to a standstill, analysts warned yesterday.
Exxaro said it had sufficient stockpiles to supply Eskom.
Analysts said a prolonged strike was a matter of national concern as Eskom’s power supply faced several challenges.
“The strike is going to have a knock-on effect. When there is peak demand and the coal supply for power stations has not been restocked we can expect blackouts,” Elton Bosch, the general manager at NUS Consulting Group, said.
The Exxaro strike was adding strain to Eskom’s already tight power supply as Unit 1 at its Koeberg nuclear power station was experiencing problems.
The Medupi power station was two years behind schedule, which added to Eskom’s troubles, Bosch said.
Eskom said previously that while the strike had affected coal deliveries, the power stations had fuel stockpiles.
Typically Eskom kept at least 40 days of stockpiles, Anton Eberhard, an electricity analyst at the UCT Graduate Business School, said. The strike would have to continue for at least a month and a half before Eskom’s stockpiles were depleted, he said.
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