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Record blackouts force South Africa miners to halt work

As load shedding continues to cripple the economy.
Sibanye Gold, the largest private-sector employer halted “all high energy-intensive activities” Monday evening, spokesman James Wellsted said. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South Africa’s biggest platinum and gold mining companies are scaling back some operations as record power cuts, now in their sixth day, start to cripple key parts of the economy.

Eskom on Monday moved to Stage 6 load-shedding from 18h00 local time, meaning it cut 6 000 megawatts from the national grid, the most yet, after a technical problem at the new Medupi Power Station. The utility has since downgraded the status to Stage 4.

Read: Eskom steps up power cuts after flooding hits major plant

Workers at Impala Platinum didn’t start the 16h00 underground shift Tuesday and the company has stopped milling ore and shut its smelter, spokesman Johan Theron said by phone.

Harmony Gold Mining was still weighing plans to resume operations at nine underground mines shut down on Monday evening after state-owned Eskom cut 6 000 megawatts from the national grid, spokeswoman Marian van der Walt said by phone Tuesday.

“Due to safety we decided not to allow people underground and may actually be doing the same today,” Van der Walt said. “We are still assessing, but things aren’t looking much different today.”

Sibanye Gold, the largest private-sector employer halted “all high energy-intensive activities” Monday evening, spokesman James Wellsted said. “We are stopping milling operations,” he added.

Petra Diamonds stopped mining at its South African operations.

South Africa’s mining industry is a pillar of the economy despite its contribution to gross domestic product declining in recent years.

A spokeswoman for Anglo American Platinum said she couldn’t immediately respond to emailed queries.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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