Impala: Another Miner Dies At Rustenburg Mine During Strike
JOHANNESBURG – A miner was killed and six injured during clashes overnight at Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.’s (IMP.JO) Rustenburg mine, where a contentious strike continues, the company said Friday.
The strike started at the end of January and has already led to two other deaths at the site, police say. Impala only confirms one other death.
“The police discovered the badly beaten body of a man in the Freedom Park development,” Impala said. “He hasn’t yet been identified, but items lying next to him indicate that he could be a contractor working at one of the shafts.”
Impala and the country’s largest mine union, National Union of Mineworkers, have been unable to get the striking miners under control. Violence escalated last week and led to clashes between those still on strike and miners who are returning to work.
Impala said it, the NUM and the country’s largest union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, which acts as the umbrella to the NUM, are scheduled to meet in the coming days to try and resolve the dispute.
Mining activity remains stopped at the mine and has cost the company more than 1 billion rand ($13.9 million) in revenue and over 80,000 troy ounces of lost output. Impala said it’s losing 20,000 ounces of production every week the operation, its largest, remains shut.
At the heart of the strike is growing discontent amongst the miners over wage levels and frustration with the NUM. Some 5,000 rockdrillers instigated the dispute after they were left out of a pay rise given to a group of workers classified as miners. The illegal strike spread and led to Impala firing roughly 17,200 workers. So far it has rehired about 8,368 workers, but that isn’t enough to restart mining, Impala said this week.
This week COSATU’s general secretary had to intervene to try and get Impala workers back on the job. He went to Rustenburg to speak to workers, and was met with boos and calls the union to replace the current NUM leadership in the region.
Adding to the strike complaints, smaller rival the South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has been actively seeking to recruit members in the region and visited the mine site early February. Many workers at Impala said they want new union representation and are ignoring the NUM calls to return to work.
Analysts this week said the union tensions don’t augur well for other miners which may face similar disputes and the increase of illegal strikes and work disruptions is the Impala activity spreads.