Trade union Solidarity has warned against Eskom’s continued denial regarding the actual state of its coal storage silos.
The union said on Thursday (20 November), that information recently brought to its attention suggests that the Majuba power station’s silo 30 has a visible two-metre-long crack – just over a month after the collapse of its silo 20.
The coal storage silo collapse at the Majuba power station in Mpumalanga resulted in widespread power cuts.
The silo held more than 10,000 tons of coal and affected coal supplies to all six units at the power station.
An investigation into the collapsed silo has since been launched.
Solidarity said it recently wrote a letter to Eskom, requesting the utility to urgently take the necessary steps to prevent the collapse of silo 30. It added that it also expressed its concern for the safety of Eskom’s employees.
According to Deon Reyneke, head of Solidarity’s Energy Industry, Eskom has up to now failed to admit that knowledge of structural problems with the now collapsed Majuba silo 20 had existed at senior level since before the collapse on 1 November.
“Two days after the silo collapsed, Solidarity issued a statement claiming that Eskom had been aware of abnormal vibrations in the silo for months. Eskom has since repeatedly denied any such knowledge. Moreover, the company failed to reply to a letter from Solidarity, in which the union sought to bring more information relevant to the collapse under Eskom’s attention,” Reyneke said.
Reyneke says Eskom’s refusal to acknowledge its mistakes and to instead pretend that Solidarity’s claims are false, is unacceptable.
“We have proceeded to gather evidence of Eskom’s knowledge of the structural problems with silo 20 and Eskom’s failure to conduct proper preventative maintenance. We are concerned that the same route will now be taken with silo 30,” he said.
Reyneke added that Eskom was obsessed with the source of Solidarity’s information. “We are not prepared to subject the source of our information to possible intimidation and victimisation.”
The energy head said that a senior Eskom manager had revealed in an official Eskom meeting that the company has been aware of the structural problems with Majuba’s silo 20 since at least September.
Eskom declined to comment on what it called rumours of a crack in the silo.
“The two remaining coal silos were emptied after the incident and prepared for a thorough examination,” spokesman Andrew Etzinger said.
“Once that examination has been concluded we will announce the results.”
Inspections were being conducted at all of Eskom’s silos around the country, he said.
Etzinger said none of the silos at the Majuba station were being used and temporary measures were still in place.
Etzinger said Eskom urged Solidarity to keep sending it information.
“Eskom has an open door policy and we are aware of Solidarity’s statements in the past regarding information it made available to Eskom about the silos. We continue to ask for the information they have provided in the past,” he said.
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