The result: on Friday and Saturday 37 mines stopped mining operations: 31 Gold and Platinum mines, and 6 Diamond mines. This spared the rest of the country from further power cuts, but it put over half a million jobs at risk, and could lead to the demise of large sections of the mining industry. Even Time magazine reported the problem.
What is even more puzzling is that the ministers who held the press conference on Friday morning claimed to be "unaware" of the mining stoppage. They nonetheless declared the power shortage a "national emergency" and asked people to switch off their geysers. They also promised to replace all the traffic lights with solar powered ones. Clearly there was no planning, and they haven't learnt any lessons from the Koeberg blackouts of 2006.
The government "Energy Security Master Plan - Electricity 2007-2025" has the following introduction (Page 7):
"As South Africa enters the 8th year of a sustained period of economic growth, the security of electricity supply has become very critical. The supply of reliable electrical power ensures that economic growth is not hampered but rather enabled."The rest of the report reads like a case of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. On Page 45 some hope is offered by listing the new power stations that are supposed to come online in the next few years. On page 47 the following statement now reads as extremely optimistic:
"Through the planning processes for the 18 month and 7 year period, the indications are of a tight reserve margin being prevalent, with the key risks for these periods have been identified."Now add to the mix the fact that Eskom directors have been paying themselves lavish bonuses and salaries, while keeping the public in the dark about the nature of their problems in over-optimistic annual reports, and it is no surprise that the power cuts came as a shock (ahem). I have been reading the Eskom Annual Reports on their web site, and they conceal any warnings of imminent danger really well. Clearly they didn't foresee any of these shortages, or decided to keep quiet about them. Perhaps the obscene bonuses are just "hush money" because one shouldn't criticise a cabinet minister.