Lonmin plc on Thursday said it was forced to halt production and incur the loss of millions of rands at some of its mining shafts as employees were allegedly threatened and intimidated by protesting Bapo ba Mogale community members.
The protesters are demanding jobs from the miner.
Violence escalated after members of the Bapo ba Mogale community launched a protest last Tuesday. Since then, there has been damage to property, including a workers’ bus, and intimidation of employees in and around Lonmin’s Marikana operations in North West.
The Bapo ba Mogale, who are located near Brits, are demanding the creation of 1 000 permanent jobs and 500 cadet placements at Lonmin for community members. The community owns the land on which Lonmin and other platinum miners operate.
Lonmin spokesperson Wendy Tlou said Lonmin had halted production at E2 and E3 shafts near Bapong since May 2 to protect workers.
“Yes, I can confirm that E2 and E3 shafts have not been productive since the protest began. We are committed to finding a lasting and financially viable solution with the community because the situation is not even productive for ordinary people not working for us,” Tlou said.
“The estimated financial loss from the general manager for those two shafts is that we’ve lost R40 million in seven days.”
Tlou said the world’s third-biggest platinum producer had agreed to withdraw a high court interdict against the community if they refrained from engaging in the protest action, but those pleas fell on deaf ears.
“These demands are not realistic in the current economic climate and cannot be acceded to without threatening the sustainability of the business,” Tlou said.
“Lonmin has recently undergone a restructuring, in close consultation with its recognised union, and significantly reduced its workforce as a result. It simply cannot absorb additional employees at this stage.”
Tlou said Lonmin was also committed to engaging with its contractors to review local employment opportunities and job application processes, and to improve the accessibility and value of the existing Resource Centre, as requested.
The Bapo ba Mogale community has an equity interest in Lonmin and the miner has signed procurement contracts with the community.
In terms of this agreement, the Bapo ba Mogale have been granted the opportunity to participate in procurement opportunities worth about R1.65 billion over the next five years.
The Bapotrans contract, which sees the Bapo ba Mogale running and managing Lonmin’s passenger transport buses, is worth about R800 million over eight years.
The Bapo ba Mogale were not immediately available for comment.
Tlou said ongoing protests undermined the value of the indirect and direct benefits that accrue to the community.
“Lonmin remains committed to seeking a peaceful resolution to the delegation’s demands through ongoing engagement, but stresses that it is operating in an economically challenging environment and cannot take expedient, but harmful short-term decisions that would have a negative impact on the sustainability of the business,” she said.