1 700 workers start strike 2.4km below Harmony mine

Cape Town – About 1 700 miners refused to return to the surface of Harmony Gold’s [JSE:HAR] Kusasalethu mine in the West Rand on Wednesday, with the miner saying they have embarked on an illegal sit-in.

“Harmony Gold confirms that around 1 700 employees are participating in an illegal sit-in at the company’s Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville,” the company said in a statement.

“The sit-in started on Wednesday, January 11 when employees chose not to return to surface at the end of the morning shift.

“No formal demands have been made by the participating employees.

“Management has sought to engage with union leadership with the purpose of resolving the matter and returning all employees to surface,” it said.

The mineworkers gathered at level 73, which is 2.4km below the surface of the mine, a Harmony spokesperson told Fin24.

The National Union of Mineworkers said via Twitter on Thursday that it is trying to establish what the workers’ demands are, while the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union has yet to make a statement and has not responded to media queries.

Harmony Gold, whose three-year wage agreement with labour unions expires in 2018, has been ramping up production so that it can halt mining in five years.

"We’re now looking at harvesting the mine in the next five years," CEO Peter Steenkamp said in August, Bloomberg reported.

“Harmony has been trying to turn around performance at Kusasalethu, which employs about 4 500 people, for at least the last three years as the company battled low grades, fires, illegal mining and labour disruptions,” Bloomberg explained.

Harmony Gold was trading 2.62% higher at 11:00 on Thursday at R33.30.

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