Mine strikes continue in South Africa

Strikers at the Lonmin mine, typically armed with 'traditional weapons'

Wildcat strikes at platinum, gold, coal, diamond, chrome and iron ore mines continued across a number of provinces on Thursday.

Thousands of strikers at Gold Field’s KDC West mine confirmed they would continue to down tools.

“We will not go back to work until our demands are met,” a leader of the strikers, Ellis Booi, proclaimed to the cheers of thousands of Gold Field’s workers who had gathered at a stadium close to the West Rand mine on Thursday.

While some wildcat strikes have seen some mines shut down production for two to three weeks already, workers at many other mines made the decision to down tools this week.

Strikes have now been reported in Gauteng, the North West, the Northern Cape, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Mining operations at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Mine in the Northern Cape were suspended on Thursday, after around 300 striking employees blocked an entrance to the open pit where mining takes place.

On Tuesday, an underground sit-in by about 65 workers began at Petra Diamond’s Kimberley mine. This action subsequently halted mining operations this week.

On Thursday, Petra Diamond spokesman Gert Kloppers said the company would like the miners to come back up.

“They are welcome to come out anytime. We would appreciate that,” he said, adding the company and unions were committed to finding a solution to the problem.

A strike also started on Tuesday at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine on the West Rand when a group of about 300 workers prevented those on a night shift from going underground.

On Thursday, the mine remained closed as some workers barricaded the entrance.

Wildcat strikes which flared up on Monday at Gold One’s Ezulwini mine on the West Rand, Bokani Platinum mine in Limpopo and at Samancor Western Chrome Mines near Rustenburg extended into Thursday.

There seemed no clear end in sight for the three-week long strike at Gold Fields KDC West Mine, near Carletonville and at the Beatrix mine in Free State involving around 22,000 workers collectively.

Similarly, mining operations at Anglo Gold Ashanti’s six mines in Gauteng remained shut as wildcat strikes involving tens of thousands of workers, which started in late September, continued into October.

“All remains at a standstill,” spokesman Stewart Bailey said on Thursday.

Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats) Rustenburg and Union mines have also continued to be the scene of disorder since mid-September, with the company conducting risk assessments this week after damage to property was reported.

Miners at Coal of Africa’s Mooiplaats Colliery in Mpumulanga have continued striking since pay talks broke down two weeks ago.

A number of affected mines planned disciplinary hearings for Friday, warning that a possible outcome of these could be dismissals.

Meanwhile, union leaders and gold and coal mine CEOs met at the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“We need to find a common ground with the captains of industry,” said National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana.

Unions want the bargaining councils reopened. – Sapa