Harmony Gold’s most troubled mine, Kusasalethu, is at a standstill as workers embark on an unprotected strike at its second-largest gold source and violence erupted in nearby communities.
Workers started an unprotected stoppage on Friday 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.
"The dismissal of the branch leadership follows an extensive legal disciplinary process followed by [the] 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.
WE APPEAL TO EMPLOYEES TO RETURN TO WORK AND STRONGLY CONDEMN ANY ACT OF VIOLENCE.
The mine has come under intense management focus to return it to profitability and, while still a large contributor of gold, it has now been grouped in the short-life group of assets to restore it to financial health, efforts that are undermined by the unsettled labour situation.
Harmony said that the strike continued during the weekend.
It prompted the company to seek and secure an urgent interdict against the strike from the Labour Court on Monday.
The notice would be served on employees, compelling them to return to work on the night shift, it said.
Amcu declined to comment, saying that it was in talks with the company.
The National Union of Mineworkers, Amcu’s rival in the platinum and gold sectors, alleged that four of its members’ houses and cars were set alight at the weekend as tensions at the mine spilt over into communities around Carletonville.
Kusasalethu, which has been plagued by labour stoppages and violence, was scaled back to mine just high-grade, newer areas of the mine, a decision that slashed the life of the mine to five years from more than 20 years, with unprofitable underground workings mothballed. Harmony cut the loss-making mine’s 6,000 workforce by 1,300 people. The mine had a six-day unprotected stoppage in April after an underground sit-in in January that disrupted production.
In the financial year to end-June 2017, the mine produced 141,270oz of gold compared to 124,198oz the year before.
The mine has also experienced safety problems, with five workers killed in an underground earth tremor in August.
In 2014, Harmony shut the mine for two weeks to remove more than 100 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 and killed and another wounded at the mine as the two unions clashed.