Goldfields's South Deep Mine. Picture: SUPPLIED
Goldfields's South Deep Mine. Picture: SUPPLIED

Gold Fields  has offered union members striking at its South Deep mine an increased severance package in an attempt to resolve the dispute that has halted production.

Gold Fields, which employs about 3,600 people in SA, said in August it will restructure its South Deep operations and cut about 1,100 jobs, nearly a third of the workforce, to save money. In response, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on strike at the mine on November 2.

South Deep, the company’s last SA asset, has lost money over the past five years and Gold Fields has been working to mechanise operations in the face of challenging geology 3km  below the surface.

The company said on Wednesday that its offer, which expires on Friday, includes increasing severance payments by four weeks, or a total of as much as R45m, funding for skills training and preferential re-employment if positions become available. CEO Nick Holland defended the plan to cut jobs after mining minister Gwede Mantashe criticised Gold Fields on Monday for not acting in good faith in talks with the government over the layoffs.

“We have really come in here with what we believe is the absolute minimum to keep the operation sustainable into the future and even then it’s going to be a challenge for us to do so,” Holland said.

Sources at the NUM, which represents most of the employees at the mine, said the national leadership wants to resolve the strike but the branch leaders are digging in.

NUM branch leader Kanetso Matabane said this is not the case and Gold Fields is not considering any of their suggestions.

Gold Fields earlier in November reported that third-quarter production fell to 533,000oz from 552,000oz  in the same period in 2017, with South Deep producing just 50,000oz in that period, against 81,000oz a year earlier.  — Reuters