May 23, 2011 / 8:44 AM / 9 years ago

Eskom resumes Medupi construction after protests

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s power utility Eskom said on Monday it has restarted construction work at its Medupi power plant after protests by contract workers at the site earlier this month.

Electricity pylons are seen as the sun sets in Soweto outside Johannesburg November 22, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Work at its other power plant construction site, Kusile, which was shut following similar violent protests, has only partially resumed as some talks were still ongoing.

Both Medupi and Kusile are Eskom’s two first power stations in more than two decades, and are meant to fill a looming power crunch in Africa’s biggest economy.

“Medupi is back to normal,” said spokeswoman Hilary Joffe.

“At Kusile there are still some labour issues to be resolved ... some contractors are working.”

The two 4,800 MW power plants are meant to prevent a repeat of a crisis, which shut the mining sector for days in early 2008 and cost the economy billions of dollars in lost output.

The protest at Medupi, whose first unit is scheduled to come online at the end of 2012, began after workers protested against the hiring of foreigners as welders.

The Kusile protest began in sympathy for workers at one of the contractor firms, which was nearing the end of its contract and demobilising.

Stephen Pell, spokesman for Kusile Civil Works (KCW), a joint venture of contractors at Kusile, said KCW’s work was postponed until next Monday for Eskom to meet with unions to address the criminal action during the unprotected strike.

“There are issues around the destruction and burning that occurred during the strike that need to be resolved,” he said.

Eskom and contractors at both sites have said they would seek to make up the lost time, especially as South Africa battles to keep the lights on and any delay in new capacity coming online could hit industry and consumers.

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