Monday, January 28, 2008


Some of South Africa's coal mines have resumed production after being shut down on Friday because of power cuts. Coal is used to generate about 90% of electricity supplies at state power company Eskom. But the main gold, diamond and platinum mines remain closed. South Africa is one of the world's biggest producers of platinum and gold.

On Friday, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin said the power cuts should be treated as a "national emergency". Eskom increased supplies over the weekend but not by enough for production to resume. The mines were closed in case miners were trapped underground by power cuts. "The power we are having is not enough for us to take people underground," Reidwaan Wookay, a spokesman for mining company Gold Fields, told AFP news agency. "We are using it to maintain the mines and keep them safe. It doesn't allow us to excavate or engage in any kind of production."

Further talks between the mining companies and Eskom are expected later in the week. The halt in production has led to fears of possible closures and job losses. "It is very stressful, as our members are not sure what are the consequences of this shutdown," general secretary of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers Frans Baleni told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The government has admitted it was wrong to refuse to invest in electricity generation several years ago, when asked by Eskom. South Africa's three biggest gold producers AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony have suspended production, along with the world's biggest platinum miner, Anglo Platinum, and diamond firm De Beers.

This has led to sharp rises in the price of gold and other precious metals. South Africa has already reduced electricity supplies to its neighbours, affecting countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.



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