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Power crisis squeezes mine



MASERU – LIQHOBONG Diamond Mine is losing M2.5 million in potential revenue daily because of an electricity fault, a senior company official said.
’Mamosa Matela, the company’s Acting Country Manager, said voltage fluctuations that have dogged the mine since the beginning of this month have heavily cost the mine and its employees.

The company has been forced to lay off 563 of its 643 workers as a result, said Matela at a press conference on Monday.
Matela said the unexpected voltage fluctuations caused the drives of plant equipment to trip, severely disrupting operations.
The problem started when the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC), through ESKOM, started supplying the mine with electricity.

Previously the mine had a dedicated line straight from ’Muela Hydropower Station, which generates electricity for Lesotho from waters tunnelled to South Africa from the Katse Dam.
Matela said last month the LEC informed the company that ’Muela Hydropower Station would go under a two-month maintenance programme starting from October 1.
This left the company relying on LEC through ESKOM.

Matela said the arrangement initially seemed to work since the supplies seemed adequate for its operations. That was until the mine experienced a problem when its plant refused to start.
Matela said they discovered that the 132kva line from ESKOM did not have enough voltage to power the plant.
“Since then, Liqhobong has not produced revenue,” she said.

Matela said has the LEC promised to investigate the source of the problem.
In the meantime, the company is planning to hire generators to complement power supplies and resume full-scale production, said Matela.
“This problem has put us under pressure in relation to finances,” she said, adding this forced the decision to send the bulk of workers home.
Matela said workers have already been informed of the decision and some left the site on Sunday.
Liqhobong Head of Finance, ’Nete ’Nete, said if the problem persists, the company would have lost M75 million in potential revenue by month-end.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane


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