MAC: Mines and Communities

South African miners continue struggling with the companies

Published by MAC on 2012-11-11
Source: Mining.com, SAPA, Reuters, The Citizen (2012-11-07)

On 1st November 2012, South African police fired tear gas on a group of striking coal miners.

This happened a day after security guards killed two workers who allegedly tried breaking into an explosives armoury at the Canadian-owned Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corp mine. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has demanded the government withdraw the company's licence.

A week later, South Africa's Mineral Resources Minister warned mining outfits against retrenching workers, while an executive director of Anglo American plc called for a "better dialogue" between trade unionists and the corporate sector.

Meanwhile, UK and Switzerland-based  Xstrata plc fired 400 employees for going on an "illegal strike" and other workers downed tools at the Village Main Reef Buffelsfontein gold mine.

Amplats (majority-owned by Anglo American) said it had offered to re-instate 12,000 miners who earlier went on yet another "illegal strike", but the workers hadn't taken up its offer.

Over the past fortnight only one mining company - London-listed CoAL - is reported to have settled the grievances of its workforce, after agreeing to increase wages by 26%.

SA mineral resources minister warns mining firms against retrenching workers

Mining.com

7 November 2012

BrightWire News - South African Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu today warned mining companies against taking "unilateral action" and retrenching workers due to the costs of recent wage hikes for mining employees.

Shabangu said that all stakeholders in South Africa's mining sector must join hands in considering potential ways to minimize worker retrenchments.

"We would like to avoid as much as possible any job losses in this sector," the minister stressed. The domestic mining industry is estimated to employ nearly 500,000 people, contributing 8.8% of the country's GDP last year.

Meanwhile, AngloGold Ashanti CEO Mark Cutifani was yesterday elected to serve as President of the Chamber of Mines. The chief executive said that South Africa's mining sector is facing grave challenges.

"I think the point we make is not meant to be a threat, but to highlight the big challenge we have. We have to come together and deal with this constructively. We must have better dialogue and listen to each other," Cutifani said.

The Chamber of Mines yesterday also elected Khanyisile Kweyama to serve as its Vice President, marking a break in the department's reputation as being a gentleman's club.

Kweyama is an executive director at Anglo American. Mike Teke, CEO of Optimum Coal, was re-elected as the Chamber's second Vice President.

For its part, Gold Fields Ltd. disclosed yesterday that its KDC East workers have returned to their posts after striking for 23 days. All three of Gold Fields' mines in South Africa are now back online.


Workers at Village's Buffelsfontein mine go on strike

Reuters

6 November 2012

JOHANNESBURG - Village Main Reef, one of South Africa's smaller gold producers, said on Tuesday that employees at its Buffelsfontein Gold Mine had embarked on an illegal strike.

The company, which did not disclose the number of employees on strike, said it planned to seek a court order to force the miners back to work.

(Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Ed Cropley)


No uptake on Amplats offer yet: NUM

The Citizen

6 November 2012

Sapa - The 12,000 miners fired from Anglo American Platinum in Rustenburg had still not taken up the company's reinstatement offer and returned to work, a union said on Tuesday.

"They are not back to work," said National Union of Mineworkers' (NUM) spokesman Lesiba Seshoka.

However, negotiations were still underway on the terms of their return, and attempts to have one of the amounts offered raised, he said.

Comment from the company was not immediately available.

On Monday, the company said it would provide an update, where appropriate, and that its statement from Thursday was still valid.

In that statement, Amplats said its reinstatement offer was strictly subject to all strikers returning to work and doing actual work activities by no later than Tuesday, October 30.

"This offer, which has not yet been accepted by employees, is still open."

The company had offered a once-off R2000 "hardship allowance" to help workers in financial difficulties due to the no-work, no-pay principle.

Two weeks ago, the platinum producer said it met with unions to facilitate the return of the 12,000 dismissed workers, and those who were on an illegal strike at its Union and Amandelbult mines.

Amplats fired the 12,000 after they failed to appear for a disciplinary hearing. They had been on a wildcat strike since September 12, in demand of a minimum wage of R16,000 a month.

The Amplats offer was made in consultation with the NUM, UASA, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Solidarity, and a strikers' committee.

On Tuesday the SA Human Rights Commission said it would investigate a report in The New Age that four non-striking workers at the Amandelbult mine were forced to strip naked, apparently by mineworkers who had been on strike, to punish them for reporting for work.

The newspaper published a photograph showing three men and a woman standing naked in front of a crowd.

SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena told SAfm: "As the commission, we will be taking up this matter."

He said: "We have mandated our Limpopo office to take up the matter at the mine and we basically call on the police to investigate this because this is clearly a criminal act."


Buffels gold miners down tools

SAPA

6 November 2012

Johannesburg - Workers at the Village Main Reef Buffelsfontein gold mine, near Klerksdorp, went on an unprotected strike on the Monday night shift, the company said on Tuesday.

"None of the category four to eight employees forming part of the [National Union of Mineworkers] bargaining unit reported for work," said the company's CEO Marius Saaiman of its operations south west of Johannesburg.

The company would get a court interdict, as it considered this an unprotected strike - one started without following procedures in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

Management also planned to speak to employees and their representatives to resolve the situation.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said he would establish what the issues were before commenting.


NUM upset with coal company

SAPA

2 November 2012

The National Union of Mineworkers in KwaZulu-Natal wants the department of mineral resources to suspend Forbes Coal's mining licence, a spokesman said on Friday.

This came after management refused to receive a memorandum from striking miners earlier in the day.

"Their licence should be suspended until they come to us because we are stakeholders and we have to be considered," said NUM provincial secretary Bongani Manyoni.

Union members were concerned over the shooting of two colleagues earlier this week.

They were eventually told that the CEO of Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corp had instructed staff not to receive the memorandum.

Manyoni said the Canadian-based company did not understand its social obligations in South Africa, and vowed to make sure operations did not start again until it received the NUM memorandum.

Striking Forbes Coal workers marched in Dundee earlier over pay demands and to protest about the shootings.

Operations remained suspended at the company's Magdalena bituminous mine and Aviemore coal mine, in Dundee, after about 750 workers went on a strike in terms of the Labour Relations Act.

Manyoni said workers wanted a salary increase, decent housing, a decent living allowance, for the company to comply with and implement the mining charter and to abide by its social development obligations in the area.

Company spokesman James Duncan said there was never an arrangement for a company representative to receive a memorandum.

The company did abide by the mining charter, and found the demands and threats to be "posturing" when the real issues were wages and conditions of employment.

"Wages and conditions of employment can be settled in a fairly orderly, structured manner," he said.

He said the company's CEO Stephan Theron was not Canadian, but South African.

Two miners were shot dead on Wednesday during an alleged attempt to enter the company's explosives storage facility, during a protest at the company's Magdalena mine near Dannhauser.

Police seized firearms from Mbube Security guards to determine who fired the fatal shots.

Colonel Jay Naicker said forensics results would help police decide whether there would be arrests. - Sapa


Xstrata fires 400 South African miners

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

2 November 2012

Global miner Xstrata Plc. confirmed Friday it has dismissed 400 workers who have been on an illegal strike at its South African mines.

Christopher Tsatsawane, spokesman for the Swiss mining giant, told AFP they had warned the strikers and the deadline had passed for them to return to their posts.

The workers, who downed tools on October 25 over an internal disciplinary system they were unsatisfied with, have 24 hours to appeal Xstrata's measure.

So far over 30,000 miners have been fired in different South African operations, causing the country's economy serious damage.

Globally, South Africa is the fourth largest producer of iron ore and holds the same rank for annual gold production. South Africa is also number one in platinum output and holds fifth spot for steam coal production.

Recent figures show a severe broadening of South Africa's trade deficit, reaching $1.6 billion. It was the largest in more than three years and wildcat strikes that caused a drop in exports of metals and other mining products are to blame.


Strike ends at CoAL's mine in South Africa

Reuters

2 November 2012

JOHANNESBURG - Striking workers at junior coal miner Coal of Africa's Mooiplaats colliery in South Africa have returned to work after the company agreed to increase their wages by 26 percent, the coal producer said on Friday.

The pay increase, effective from July this year, includes medical aid assistance and various allowances, for housing, shift and underground work.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)


Forbes Coal Mine Killings: South African Miners Shot, Killed By Security Amid Labour Unrest

The Huffington Post (Canada)

1 November 2012

Security guards at a Canadian-owned coal mine have shot and killed two workers as the miners attempted to reach an armoury during a wage protest, news reports say.

Forbes & Manhattan Coal, a Toronto-based mining company, suspended operations at its Magdalena and Aviemore mine after the incident, which comes amidst a wave of violent and sometimes lethal mining protests in South Africa.

At around 10:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, "some of the workers apparently attempted to break into an armoury on the mine and they were dispersed by mine security," Colonel Jay Naicker of the South African police said, as quoted by AFP.

Naicker said security guards chased two men into an "informal settlement near the mine," where shots were fired, according to Dow Jones.

"In order to ensure the safety of all our employees and to safeguard our assets, we have taken a decision to suspend all operations until such time as deemed safe and appropriate by management and the board," Forbes & Manhattan CEO Stephan Theron said in a statement. "Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the family of the deceased employee."

The incident comes as South Africa struggles to come to grips with violent mining protests, which culminated in the killing of 34 miners at a Lonmin-owned platinum mine in August.

In a move that outraged protesters, the South African government charged 270 striking miners with murder over the incident, though it had been police that fired the bullets. A few weeks later, the country's prosecution service announced it was dropping the charges.

In both the Lonmin strike and the Forbes & Manhattan strike, workers went on strike demanding higher wages.

Mining strikes have been breaking out all over the country in what has been described as the worst labour unrest in the country since the end of apartheid in 1994.

In an incident Tuesday, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a crowd of 1,000 protesters outside a platinum mine owned by Anglo American Plantinum.

South Africa is a major producer of gold and accounts for 75 per cent of the world's platinum production.


 

Striking South African coal miners killed at Canadian mine

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

1 November 2012

South African police fired tear gas on Thursday to disperse a group of striking coal miners a day after security guards killed two workers that had tried to break into a locked mine-explosives armoury at Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corp. (TSX:FMC) operations.

The deaths, confirmed by the Toronto-based company on Wednesday, are the latest in a series of violent labour unrest affecting the country since August, when 34 people were killed by police at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine.

The Canadian miner added it has suspended operations at its Magdalena and Aviemore underground coal mines in South Africa, hit by strikes since Oct. 17.

"In order to ensure the safety of all our employees and to safeguard our assets, we have taken a decision to suspend all operations until such time as deemed safe and appropriate by management and the board," Forbes Coal president Stephan Theron said.

So far over 30,000 miners have been fired in different South African operations, causing the country's economy serious damage.

Globally South Africa is the fourth largest producer of iron ore, holds the same rank for annual gold production, is number one in platinum output and holds fifth spot for steam coal.

Recent figures show a severe broadening of South Africa's trade deficit, reaching $1.6-billion. It was the largest in more than three years and wildcat strikes that caused a drop in exports of metals and other mining products are to blame.

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