WeSizwe declares an end to the Bakubung mine sit-in
Miners return to the surface after talks between management and union leaders
Platinum metals mining company Wesizwe has announced an end to the illegal sit-in by an estimated 250 miners at its Bakubung Mine in the North West.
Business Day reported last week that the disgruntled miners had barricaded themselves at the mines’ 77-level shaft in an attempt to extract concessions from management as the company’s retrenchment process unfolds.
On Monday Bakubung’s parent company, Wesizwe, told shareholders that all employees returned safely to the surface after the illegal sit-in at the mine on Wednesday.
“Employees returned to surface on Friday, 8 December 2023 at approximately 11pm following discussions between management and union leadership,” said Wesizwe in a statement. “They were all given medical attention and cleared of any potential harm.”
The market welcomed the news as the Wesizwe share price rose 4.65% after the announcement before retreating to close 2.06% lower at R0.42.
On November 27, the Bakubung mine entered into section 189 consultations that could potentially affect 571 employees at different staff levels in all areas of the business.
These retrenchments were necessitated by a board decision to approve changes from the hybrid mining method to board and pillar mining which would see a reduction in the number of employees needed to establish and maintain the required production profile in the business plan.
A week later, employees embarked on an illegal sit-in, choosing not to return to the surface at the end of their shift citing unresolved issues from the costly August unprotected strike at the mine, which went on for five weeks.
The workers demanded their pay be benchmarked with that of the industry, claiming their pay was far less than their peers in the sector. Other grievances included changes to the minimum requested remuneration for employees, changes to employees’ benefits, subsidies and working conditions.
But the situation is not unique to Wesizwe Platinum as various mining houses proposed restructuring shafts in response to the impact of power outages, rail and port weaknesses, and lower metal prices, all of which are compounding economic woes and hurting bottom lines.
Anglo American, Sibanye-Stillwater and Kumba Iron Ore are among those announcing restructuring and layoffs.
Similarly, Seriti Resources’ Klipspruit mine and Glencore’s iMpunzi coal complex declared job cuts, blaming Transnet Freight Rail’s underperformance, which resulted in lower volumes being railed to ports.
The Bakubung mine, Wesizwe’s flagship project, is a twin-shaft system that will deliver 1-million tonnes of ore a year to the processing plant, which has the same capacity.
The mine and the processing plant’s capacity will be increased to 3-million tonnes a year in 2026.
PGMs are used primarily in making jewellery and reducing emissions in internal combustion engines and jewellery.
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