Eskom says rolling cuts unlikely despite coal supply fall

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South African utility Eskom said on Thursday rolling power cuts are unlikely despite coal supply possibly falling below a 20-day requirement at its Hendrina power station.

On Thursday investigative news outfit AmaBhungane reported Eskom may be forced into nationwide electricity cuts after a coal mine linked to the Gupta family threatened to halt supply.

Eskom has been at the heart of allegations of illegal contracts and undue influence in awarding tenders to the Gupta family, friends of South African President Jacob Zuma.

Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed Eskom had held an emergency meeting last Friday to determine whether strategic coal stockpiles at Hendrina and other stations were sufficient after Tegeta Exploration and Resources threatened to halt supply to Hendrina.

Coal supply at Eskom’s power stations stood at 74 days’ worth in March but had fallen to 25 days’ worth at Hendrina by October and may have fallen below a 20-day requirement since, Phasiwe said.

He told Reuters the company was investigating whether supply at all its 12 power stations complied with regulations requiring at least 20 days’ worth.

South Africa had regular power cuts between 2008 and 2015, hitting key industries and knocking economic growth as demand exceeded capacity.

Quoting sources, AmaBhungane alleged that Tegeta has been exporting coal from its Optimum Coal Mine while limiting supply to Eskom.

“If it happens that for some reason they are unable to supply us with coal then clearly it means that they would have breached the contract and therefore it becomes a legal matter,” Eskom’s Phasiwe said.

A spokeswoman for Tegeta parent company Oakbay, founded by the Gupta family as its main investment vehicle in South Africa, said the company would likely comment on Friday.

The family agreed in August to sell Tegeta but the sale has not been finalised.

The Guptas are accused of using their links with the 75-year old Zuma to wield influence and win state contracts. Zuma and the family both deny any wrongdoing.

($1 = 13.6469 rand)

Editing by Ed Stoddard and Jason Neely

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