GOLD Fields mines in Ghana ground to a halt on Wednesday, as wildcat strikes halted output at its Tarkwa and Damang sites — just weeks after the miner spun off its strife-hit mines in South Africa.
The Ghana mines account for 900,000oz of gold, or 43% of the world’s fourth-biggest gold miner’s expected annual production.
The strikes seemed to coincide with wage negotiations under way with labour unions, Gold Fields spokesman Willie Jacobsz said on Wednesday.
Last November, Gold Fields spun off two of its mines in South Africa — Beatrix and the Kloof and Driefontein Complex into Sibanye Gold, which is separately listed on the JSE — leaving South Deep as its remaining gold-producing operation in South Africa alongside those in Ghana, Peru and Australia.
Since this move, speculation has been growing that other major gold producers in South Africa could follow suit, in line with shareholder arguments that high operating costs, a restive labour force and the uncertainties of South Africa’s policies are weighing on share prices.
Mr Jacobsz said about 3,000 mineworkers represented by Ghana’s Mineworkers Union and its affiliates, the Professional Managerial Staff Union and the Branch Union, gave a list of demands to management at both mines and threatened industrial action within 24 hours in case of an unfavourable response.
The workers are in dispute with the company over its determination of the employee profit share scheme at Gold Fields, Mr Jacobsz said.
Last year, the Ghanaian government introduced a set of additional taxes and levies on the mining industry. These included an increase in company taxes from 25% to 35%, on top of an increase in mine royalty taxes from 3% to 5%.
Gold Fields’ annual report indicates that last year it paid $255m towards corporate taxes, royalties, dividends, income taxes and contributions to the country’s National Stabilisation Levy.
"Government’s share of the pie got bigger, while that for other shareholders and other stakeholders got less, and the employees don’t seem to understand that," Mr Jacobsz said.
"We remain committed to developing our operations in jurisdictions (where) we believe we’ll be able to realise attractive returns for shareholders," he said.
Performance in the quarter was in line with its production guidance of 1,8-million to 1,9-million ounces.