By Lenore Fedow
Petra Diamonds sold this 20.08-carat “exceptional” Type IIb diamond, mined at Cullinan in South Africa, for nearly $15 million at tender in November. The miner was forced to temporarily halt operations due to a countrywide power emergency.
London—Petra Diamonds Ltd. temporarily halted work at its mines in South Africa after flash flooding crippled the country’s power supply.

State-owned power company Eskom declared a countrywide power system emergency Monday and called for load shedding, a controlled lowering of power megawattage.

“Load shedding is a responsible act and highly controlled process, implemented to protect the country from a national blackout,” Eskom said in a press release.

Petra Diamonds received the request Monday to reduce its power to essential levels, leading it to suspend mining operations at the Cullinan, Finsch and Koffiefontein mines, as per its press release.

Workers were removed from underground, except those required for essential services, and pumping began to prevent flooding and allow for ventilation.

Load shedding is categorized by stages. The higher the load-shedding stage, the more frequently power is lowered and the greater the number of affected customers, explained Eskom via Twitter.

The situation was downgraded to a stage 4 Tuesday, allowing Petra to resume mining operations in the country but with 20 percent less power than usual.

The stage 4 was scheduled to remain in effect until 11 p.m. local time Tuesday, Petra said.

Petra said it is accustomed to managing its operations to maintain production levels during load- shedding requests.

“Where possible, power is limited to the plants because Petra has excess processing capacity and therefore processing can be done once full power is restored,” a company spokesperson said in an email to National Jeweler.

The company will also focus on essential maintenance work.

“The impact of the current load curtailment on the company will depend on the duration and level of severity of the power restriction,” Petra said.

Anglo American, a majority owner of De Beers Group, confirmed to Reuters that its operations had been affected but did not comment further.

Operations at Harmony Gold, Impala Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater, and Gold Fields were also affected.

Eskom, which provides 90 percent of South Africa’s power, reportedly holds 500 billion rand ($33.7 billion) in mostly government-backed debt.

The debt-laden utility company has struggled to meet the country’s energy demand with power outages also occurring earlier this year.

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