Wescoal, a supplier of coal to Eskom, has been deemed an essential service provider and will remain operational during the 21-day lockdown, the company said on Wednesday.

“Coal producers and power stations are included as essential service in SA and are to remain operational,” Wescoal said in a statement. “Additionally, Wescoal supplies coal to other essential services like hospitals through our trading business. By virtue of this, it is an essential service-provider in the electricity and energy space.”

In a bid to arrest the rapid spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, the SA government will impose the lockdown as of midnight on Thursday. As of Wednesday morning, the number of cases in the country had risen to 709.

Wescoal said Eskom had confirmed its status as an essential services provider in the electricity generation value chain, and specifically requested the continuity and uninterrupted supply of Wescoal’s contracted coal to its power stations during the national lockdown period.

While core, essential functions in the organisation will be required to continue working throughout the lockdown, the company has undertaken to act responsibly and to do its part in preventing further spread of the virus, by implementing business continuity measures, including health and safety controls and protocols, together with its mining contractors across the breadth of its operations.

“The unfolding Covid-19 events are uncharted territory for all of us and we therefore assure shareholders and the market, that our actions will be based on the best interest of the country and that we will align with the national government's guidelines as they evolve,” Wescoal said.