Date: 08 April 2019 By:
The Department of Environmental Affairs has extended and amended Eskom’s environmental authorisation (EA) for a further five years to 24 June 2024 for the construction of the proposed 400kV Tabor-Bokmakierie (Nzhelele) powerline.
The EA for the construction of the powerline from the Tabor substation near Polokwane to Bokmakierie (Nzhelele) was issued on 24 June 2014. The start of the project was, however, delayed because of challenges experienced in servitude acquisition, forcing Eskom to ask for an extension.
In their approved amendment letter to Eskom, the department warns Eskom that construction must commence on the project before the new authorisation lapses on 24 June 2024. “If commencement of the activity does not occur within that period, the authorisation lapses and a new application for environmental authorisation must be made in order for the activity to be undertaken,” states the authorisation letter.
Another amendment to the original EA was to reduce the number of 250MVA 400kV/132kV Nzhelele transformers from four to three. These transformers are to be constructed on the Farm Scott, Portion 2.
The proposed 400kV Tabor-Bokmakierie powerline will span a distance of 100 km. As part of the construction process, the existing Bokmakierie substation footprint of two hectares will increase to 23 hectares. This will allow for the construction of the three 500MVA transformers to be called the Nzhelele Main Transmission Stations.
“The demand for electricity in the region since the EA was issued on 24 June 2014 has increased and thus, bigger transformers are required to cater for this need,” said the department.
News of the department’s extension of its EA for Eskom comes amidst MC Mining’s recent announcement on 14 March that they will start with the phased development of their flagship Makhado hard-coking and thermal-coal project in the Nzhelele Valley. The mining company indicated that Phase 1 will commence during the third quarter of this year if all conditions are satisfied.
Whether MC Mining’s push to get their mine up and running has anything to do with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ extension to Eskom to get the powerline done is not clear. What is certain is that the demand for electricity in the region is growing by the day. What should also be kept in mind is the government’s proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ), to be established in the immediate vicinity of the proposed new Nzhelele Main Transmission Station.
Part of the SEZ development includes the building of a 4600MW coal-fired power plant, with MC Mining apparently standing in line to start delivering coal to the plant. How all these pieces fit together is not clear at this stage, but it would seem they all form part of a bigger picture. What that bigger picture is and who exactly will benefit from it is uncertain. Opposition parties have already questioned the whole SEZ process, especially regarding the 4600MW power station.