Amplats CEO says firm is “continuously monitoring” risk of total power blackout

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum.

ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats) said it was monitoring the risk of a total energy blackout at its South African mines following an increase in power curtailments this year.

“It’s a big enough risk for us to have business continuity management to be kept alive to this on a continuous basis,” said the firm’s CEO, Natascha Viljoen in an interview.

The company said earlier today that the upper end of its production guidance for 2023 of four million ounces of platinum group metals (PGMs) was under threat owing to increased power rationining by Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power utility.

Higher power curtailments – which could see a 5% cut to its production forecast – also affected grid stability. “We are concerned about it, so for that reason we have a business continuity plan to stop operations in a controlled manner,” Viljoen said.

Viljoen said Amplats was hoping to install renewable energy as quickly as possible. “We believe every 100MW we can take on will help with creating a buffer to protect grid stability.”

The company had enough backup power to “bring people out of the mines, tap our furnaces and bring everything to a complete halt,” Viljoen said. It could take two to three weeks to return its mines and smelter to production following a blackout event.

Viljoen acknowledged her company was in the hands of Eskom’s technicians. “They are quite responsive but we are reliant on how effect they are in managing that.”

AndrĂ© de Ruyter, Eskom’s CEO said today in an update that the probability of a blackout was relatively low. But stage 6 loadshedding was likely to continue until Wednesday with lower stages of power rationining to be implemented through to the weekend.