ANGLOGOLD Ashanti began dismissing 12,000 strikers who ignored an ultimatum to return to work on Wednesday after it had idled some of the world’s deepest mines for nearly five weeks.
Gold Fields, Anglo American Platinum, Gold One and Atlatsa Resources have also dismissed thousands of workers for participating in illegal strikes.
AngloGold has warned that marginal areas of its mines could be shut as a result of the strike, as rock pressure is immense at its up-to-4km deep mines, and working areas deteriorate quickly.
The world’s third-biggest gold miner said work resumed at four operations after more than 90% of the strikers returned to work this week. The company’s Savuka, Tau Tona and Mponeng mines, near Carletonville, remained idled.
AngloGold said its September quarter production would be 1.03-million ounces compared to a forecast of between 1.07-million and 1.1-million ounces because of the strike and lower production from its Obuasi mine in Ghana.
But analysts said the full effect of the strike would be felt in the December quarter. AngloGold is losing 32,000oz of gold a week, worth R478m at current prices.
Gold Fields dismissed 1,500 workers from its Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) West mines last week, and it dismissed 8,100 more at KDC East on Tuesday.
More than 7,000 of the KDC East workers have appealed against their dismissals. Their appeals will be heard over the next few days. AngloGold will follow a similar process of giving workers opportunity to appeal.
Harmony’s ultimatum to 5,400 workers who participated in an unprotected strike at its Kusasalethu mine, near Carletonville, expires on Thursday.
"The firing of workers is a desperate measure on the part of companies. Given the interactions we’ve been having with companies, we believe these actions are premature," Lesiba Seshoka, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman, said on Wednesday.
AngloGold, Harmony and Gold Fields are expected to meet at the Chamber of Mines with the NUM, Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa on Thursday to sign an agreement designed to end the strikes in the gold sector.
Participants have said the contents of the agreement are largely the same as proposals put forward by the gold companies to address the salaries of the lowest paid workers and underground operators of drills, locomotives, winches, loaders and water jets.
The proposals would add less than 3% to the companies’ annual wage bill, but together with the 10% wage increase workers received in July as part of a two-year salary agreement, this was a good offer, said Mr Seshoka.
"It’s an important day. Many workers are indicating they are willing to go back to work," he said. "We’ve got Christmas just around the corner and kids need new school uniforms. Workers are under pressure to return."
Talks among platinum producers and organised labour under the auspices of the chamber are continuing as they set up a centralised bargaining process.
However, one of the key participants, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) which has made enormous membership gains on platinum mines at the expense of the NUM, has withdrawn.
Facilitators are in constant communication with Amcu to get it to return, chamber executive Vusi Mabena said.
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