South Africa 13.1.2017 09:25 am

Harmony Gold workers end underground sit-in and safely return to the surface

A team of rescue workers at Lily Mine. Photo: Barberton Times

A team of rescue workers at Lily Mine. Photo: Barberton Times

The mineworkers chose not to return to surface at the end of the morning shift on Wednesday afternoon.

Harmony Gold said on Friday that it had safely returned to surface all employees who had participated in more than 24-hour illegal underground sit-in at the Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg.

On Thursday about 1 700 employees participated in an illegal sit-in at the company’s Kusasalethu mine.

The mineworkers chose not to return to surface at the end of the morning shift on Wednesday afternoon.

Formal demands from the workers were received only late Thursday, which included the payment of a special bonus, the removal of the general manager and an assurance that disciplinary action against them would not be pursued.

After hours of negotiations on Thursday, 18 employees were evacuated to surface as a result of ill health.

Some miners were reported to have displayed symptoms of severe fatigue and dehydration, and were treated by Harmony’s medical personnel. Their families were camping outside the mine trying to urge them to end their illegal sit-in.

In a statement, Harmony Gold said all employees returned to surface shortly before 12pm on Thursday night following all-night discussions between management and union leadership.

The gold miner said a thorough independent investigation into the circumstance surrounding the illegal sit-in, which lasted nearly 48 hours, would be conducted and that production at the mine would proceed over the weekend.

Harmony’s chief executive, Peter Steenkamp, said: “We are pleased that a resolution has been reached and that all our employees have returned to surface safely.”

The National Union of Mineworkers, the leading union in the gold sector, had said on Thursday that it was also in the dark about Kusasalethu workers’ demands but was investigating the matter.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Friday that it took part in the discussions with mine management. Amcu said it was aware of the bonus demands, which workers had been promised would be paid after the holidays.

The union said commitments to pay the bonuses were made to the workers before they ended their sit-in.

 

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