ANGLO American Thermal Coal and Eskom this week pledged to get the first unit of the six-unit Kusile power station on stream by 2014 and the rest of the units running by the scheduled 2018 date.

Eskom’s main contract is with Anglo Coal.

Anglo Coal’s planned New Largo colliery, 5km from the power station, is committed to supply coal for 40 years of the plant’s 60-year life. Eskom said the balance will come from Anglo Coal’s Zibulo reserve near Ogies.

Anglo Coal is in talks with other mines in the vicinity of Kusile, owned by African Exploration, BHP Billiton and Xtrata, to supplement the company’s reserves.

“Initially we will be supplying Kusile through our Zibulo mine, which is already in operation,” said Anglo Coal spokesman Moeketsi Mofokeng. “The power station will be commissioned in phases, so the timing of the construction of the mine coincides with Eskom’s commissioning timetable.”

Mr Mofokeng said construction of the New Largo mine is scheduled to begin once the relevant approval and permitting processes, within Anglo Coal, Eskom and regulatory authorities, have been completed and will match the ramp-up profile of Eskom.

The farm on which Eskom intends to build the New Largo mine has previously been used for agricultural purposes but has been acquired for mining.

“More than 80% of the land required for the life of the project has been acquired. The current practice is to lease land not required immediately back to the farmers. The land will be made available to us as and when required,” Mr Mofokeng said.

Once completed, Kusile will be the world’s fourth largest coal-fired power station, expected to meet about 11% of South Africa’s electricity needs with a total capacity of 4,800MW.

Eskom has been working on the $161bn project with Black & Veatch as implementing agents, with about 58 contractors on site.

The biggest contractors are Hitachi Power Europe, responsible for erecting the boiler, and Alstom, which is working on the station’s turbine.

* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times