A WEEK-long strike at a section of Gold Fields’ largest mine in South Africa ended peacefully on Wednesday after a high-powered intervention by the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
"Twelve thousand workers at Gold Fields’ Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) mine in Carletonville have now agreed to return to work beginning with night shift tonight," the NUM said.
"The leadership of the NUM has engaged with these workers and their issues and made a commitment that their demands will be investigated and attended to. The workers overwhelmingly agreed to return to work and made a commitment to never again be misled by people with ulterior motives," it said.
More than 12,000 workers at the eastern section of the mine downed tools last Wednesday to protest against a mandatory R70 funeral policy payment deducted each month from their salaries as well as unhappiness over the leadership of the local branch of the NUM. Union members had asked for the policy because it included family members.
The eastern section contributes about 500,000oz a year to KDC, which, at 1-million ounces of production a year, is the largest mine within Gold Fields, the world’s fifth-largest gold producer.
Gold Fields used ore stockpiles of varying grades to feed its production plant until the weekend when they ran out, meaning lost output was truly felt from Monday. The section lost about 1,650oz a day since then, meaning gold lost is just shy of 5,000oz, worth R70m.
The company will update the market once it has worked out precisely what production was lost because it will take some time to restart the underground working areas that have been idle for a week, ensuring they are safe for workers, said Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche.
The strike, which came at the same time as a violent strike at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in the North West, where 44 people were killed, was resolved after the intervention of the NUM’s senior leaders, who resolved differences between striking workers and branch leadership.
"We commend the national leadership of the NUM, in particular president Senzeni Zokwana and general secretary Frans Baleni, for their bold leadership in resolving the strike," said Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland.
"While we cannot condone the unlawful nature of the strike, and will implement the no-work, no-pay and no-dismissal principle, we are pleased with the peaceful manner in which our employees conducted the strike," he said.
At the start of the strike there were fears that labour unrest in the platinum sector had jumped to the gold mines.
The platinum sector has seen a spate of wildcat strikes, with the most prominent of these at Impala Platinum in February this year and currently at Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer.
Impala said the six-week illegal strike had cost it R2,8bn in lost revenue and the loss of 150,000oz of platinum production.
Lonmin is nearing the end of a fourth week of a strike that is costing it 15,000oz of platinum production a week. The loss of 60,000oz of platinum at the prevailing price and exchange rate equates to R786m.
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