Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville. Picture: SOWETAN
Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville. Picture: SOWETAN

Harmony Gold’s most troubled mine, Kusasalethu, is at a standstill because of labour strife spilling violence into nearby communities.

Workers embarked on an unprotected stoppage to protest against the company’s dismissal of the branch leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), for its role in unprotected industrial action at the mine earlier in 2017.

Harmony said the strike started on Friday and continued at the weekend, prompting the company to seek an urgent interdict against the strike from the labour court, on Monday.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Amcu’s rival in the platinum and gold sectors, alleged four of its members’ houses and cars were set alight at the weekend as tension at the mine spilt over into nearby communities around Carletonville.

Kusasalethu, which has been plagued by labour stoppages and violence, was scaled back to mine just high-grade areas of the mine, a decision that slashed the life of the mine to just five years from more than 20 years.

Harmony cut the loss-making mine’s 6,000 workforce by 1,300 people. The mine had a six-day unprotected stoppage in April, following an underground sit-in during January that disrupted production.

"The dismissal of the branch leadership follows an extensive legal disciplinary process followed by management," Harmony CEO Peter Steenkamp said in a statement.

"We appeal to employees to return to work and strongly condemn any act of violence or intimidation. It is important that discipline at the mine be restored to ensure the sustainability of the mine," he said.

In the financial year to end-June 2017, the mine produced 141,270oz of gold compared to 124,198oz the year before, making it the second-largest source of gold for the company.

The mine has also experienced safety problems, with five miners killed in an underground earth tremor in August.

In 2014, Harmony shut the mine for two weeks to remove illegal miners from underground after a spate of fires. The shutdown cost it an estimated R112m in lost revenue, In November 2012, two people were shot dead and another wounded at the mine as the two unions clashed.

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