By Memory Mataranyika, Fin24 on Business Day Live
PICTURE: REUTERS, MACKSON WASAMUNU on BDLive
HARARE — Eskom’s provision of excess electricity to Zimbabwe and Zambia and slowly replenishing water levels in the Kariba dam have helped stabilise power supplies in SA’s neighbouring countries, allowing mining operations across the region to intensify production.
The power utility has agreed to supply excess electricity amounting to 300MW to both Zimbabwe and Zambia. It also has other various agreements with regional countries such as Botswana and Namibia to supply electricity under protocol for the Southern African Power Pool.
The region is facing acute power shortages, while Eskom has also urged Lesotho and Swaziland to use power sparingly to help SA avoid load shedding. The power shortages caused companies to scale back on production and incur extra expenses running generators during power cuts.
"First Quantum’s Zambian operations, the Kansanshi mine, smelter and the Sentinel project, are being consistently provided a total of approximately 285MW. This allows for normal operations at the Kansanshi mine and smelter complex and for Sentinel to achieve above nameplate capacity throughput for periods," First Quantum Minerals president Clive Newall said on Tuesday.
The Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries as well as farmers are resisting the government’s move to raise electricity tariffs by as much as 49%.
Mining executives in the country, however, said there had been a marginal improvement in power supplies, thanks to the power import deal with Eskom. South African platinum miners in Zimbabwe had expressed concern that platinum smelters the government was asking them to build inside the country would require guaranteed power supplies.
Zambia, which is already facing currency and drought woes exacerbated by the El Niño dry weather phenomenon, has also embarked on various programmes to boost its power generating capacity.
Electrical engineers have blamed the power shortages the region is grappling with on poor planning, and a lack of investment and prioritisation of investment in power generation, as well as failure by governments to speedily conclude independent power producer licences.
Authorities in Lusaka are forging ahead with ramping up in-country generating capacity, which will provide an additional 420MW. The projects under this programme (300MW from thermal and 120MW from hydro power) will be completed this year.
"Currently, the state-run power company is importing power from neighbouring countries, and has announced additional power imports of up to 300MW from another utility in the region and a further 200MW from an independent power producer," said Newall.