Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

HARMONY Gold Mining will on Friday begin restarting its Kusasalethu mine, which has been closed since December 20.

The phased restart followed an agreement being reached with trade unions representing the majority of employees at the mine, Harmony said on Thursday.

The company temporarily closed the mine in the interest of safety following weeks of unprotected strike action, workers’ refusal to adhere to work policies and procedures, and several incidents of violence by some employees and contractors, it said.

A consultation process in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act began on January 7 between Harmony and Kusasalethu employees represented by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa (Uasa).

A precondition for reopening the mine was the acceptance by all employees of various conditions, all broadly relating to employees committing to full compliance with policies and procedures, and safe and orderly conduct. The unions agreed to these conditions.

It was also agreed that each employee would sign a code of conduct to show individual commitment to ensuring Kusasalethu was mined in a safe and secure way with full respect for the rule of law.

Employees will return in phases and will be called back individually from February 19 to ensure a safe and smooth process.

Aside from signing the code of conduct, returning employees will be trained on the guarantees and undertakings in the agreement, and health and safety procedures. That is expected to take six to eight weeks to complete.

The mine is expected to resume normal operations towards the end of April with full production set for late June.

The Section 189 process has been suspended for a further 12 months, which means that, should the situation on the mine degrade to a situation similar to that which gave rise to the temporary closure, the Section 189 process will resume.

A monitoring committee will be established, consisting of union leaders and management, under the chairmanship of a senior commissioner of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), to ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement.

"We have received satisfactory assurances from all employee organisations — Amcu, NUM, Solidarity and Uasa — that their members have committed to compliance with the conditions. On this basis, management feels comfortable to proceed with reopening the mine," Harmony CEO Graham Briggs said on Thursday.

"Existing and established rights of engagement from both a labour and employer perspective have been reinforced and we are pleased that we can continue mining at Kusasalethu.

"Safety is our first priority and we refuse to compromise on this value."