Harmony delays mine operations

2013-01-02 17:00

Johannesburg - South African bullion producer Harmony Gold said on Wednesday it would delay the post-holiday restart of its Kusasalethu mine following year-end violence and protests.

"Management has decided to review the financial and operational status of the mine following the violence and unlawful actions in December and will be able to provide a proper update towards the end of the week or early next week," said spokesperson Marian van der Walt.

Van der Walt said the company had notified the mine's employees through community radio announcements not to return to work on Thursday as scheduled until further notice.

The mine, 65 kms (40 miles) west of Johannesburg, was the scene of a brief underground sit-in just before Christmas when 1 700 workers refused to surface to protest the suspension of colleagues who had taken part in an illegal strike.

The suspensions also sparked violence at the mine on December 20 when several miners were injured by police firing rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration. In November, two miners were killed in clashes between rival unions.

The unrest at Kusasalethu was the latest labour flare-up in South Africa's mining sector, which was battered last year by a wave of violent wildcat strikes that claimed around 50 lives.

Labour troubles could continue in 2013 as increasingly militant workers demand higher pay.

According to Harmony's website, Kusasalethu employed 5 756 people, including 773 contractors, in the 2011 financial year, when it produced around 180 000 ounces of gold.