Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says the possibility of load shedding during the 21-day nationwide lockdown is unlikely.
“The supply of fuel to the relevant critical and essential services, as well as the supply of coal to Eskom for electricity supply and liquid fuels production, are critical during this period.
“Supplying Eskom with coal is a requirement and with the lockdown, demand will be very low so it is unlikely that we will have load shedding,” said the Minister.
Mantashe made the remarks, during a joint media briefing with the Ministries of Arts and Culture and Telecommunications, where each department mapped out its interventions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 during the lockdown.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown from midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020 to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
Working together with the South African Petroleum Industry Association, the Minerals Council SA and in consultation with labour unions, Mantashe says his department has developed a framework through which these industries will implement the envisaged directives.
“This is being done in order to safeguard the lives of people while ensuring that the limited economic activity which will be undertaken during this period is supported,” said the Minister.
With industries required to prioritise the health and safety of employees, Mantashe announced that mining operations especially those that are labour intensive will be scaled down significantly.
The Minister said the government is mindful that in some mining operations and processing plants a complete shutdown will not be feasible or too costly and in this regard is adopting a risk-based approach.
“This would negatively affect the security of supply, and therefore the economy as a whole.
“We are adopting a risk-based approach, with worst-case scenario planning, and all companies are required to ensure that their business continuity plans are fit for purpose,” he said.
In the mining sector, essential services supporting the sector, including security and related infrastructure, maintenance, water pumping, refrigeration and ventilation will continue.
Mines supplying coal to Eskom will remain in operation, albeit at reduced production levels.
For exports, each case will be evaluated on its merits. Services being rendered to communities, such as the supply of water, will also continue.
Production in the gold, chrome, manganese and other sectors will be scaled down; while the processing of surface material in the PGMs sector will continue for the production of – among others medical products.
“This will allow smelters, which cannot be switched on and off abruptly, to remain operational,” said the Minister.
In support of the government’s fight against COVID-19, the Minerals Council committed to avail its health infrastructure – facilities and staff – during the lockdown as potential quarantine sites.
In the energy sector, the following activities are among those which will be considered an essential service:
- The production and distribution of petroleum products, including fuel, paraffin and liquefied petroleum gas. This entails shipping, manufacturing, terminals, distribution and retail.
- In the case of petroleum products, imports will be scaled back for the duration of the lockdown, as there will be excess capacity.
- Regulatory oversight on nuclear facilities, as well as nuclear safeguard inspections.
- Production and supply of nuclear medicines and chemicals used at refineries.
- The Safari-1 research reactor and support technical services.