Johannesburg - Sibanye Gold [JSE:SGL] fell to the lowest in more than three months as it suspended operations at its Cooke mine, west of Johannesburg, after employees were assaulted.
Sibanye dropped as much as 7.8%, and was 3.1% weaker at 10:42 in Johannesburg, heading for the lowest close since June 23. Three workers were assaulted and two are in a critical condition after violence broke out during a union-membership verification process, Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said on Tuesday by phone.
The company shut Cooke, which produces 10% to 15% of its gold, late on Wednesday to investigate the incident and ensure workers’ safety, Wellsted said. “There appears to be a misunderstanding in that some employees thought we had finished the verification process when it was in fact ongoing,” he said. “While emotions are high, no one is going down on the day shift.”
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are competing for support across South Africa’s gold industry.
The Amcu rose to prominence in the country’s platinum mines, displacing the Num, following the Marikana massacre, when 34 people protesting over wages were killed in a single day by police in 2012.
The spokesperson for Amcu couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Gold dropped 0.2% to $1 308.77 an ounce as investors anticipated higher US interest rates. The FTSE/JSE Africa Gold Mining Index dropped as much as 2.5% in Johannesburg, the lowest since June 2 on a closing basis. About 940 000 Sibanye shares were traded, almost 20% of the three-month daily average.
Num "extremely angry and saddened"
The NUM said it is "extremely angry and saddened" after two of its branch leaders were attacked and critically injured while going to work on Tuesday.
"We can confirm that two Num branch at Cooke operations were attacked and critically injured while going to work this morning by alleged Amcu members, who blockaded all the main gates of Cooke operations and threatening workers not to go to work," Num said in a statement.
"The Num branch leaders at Cooke operations received intelligent information yesterday afternoon that alleged Amcu members were planning to have a mass meeting inside Cooke 2 hostel and they were planning to attack our members. The management was informed about this intelligent information, but they deliberately ignored it," it said.
“We can confirm that Num members were attacked and Sibanye Gold did nothing to send the security to protect them. Our members were attacked last night in hostels and this morning while they were going to work,” said Num PWV regional secretary Mpho Phakedi.
“We demand answers from the company. Heads must roll. We want to know how did it happened that a group of people could attack and stop people from going to work. We are reliably informed that few alleged members of AMCU from Cooke 4 and rented crowd of unemployed people attacked our members when they were going to work,” Phakedi added.
Phakedi further said that Sibanye Gold must fully account for what had happened to its members. “We are asking ourselves as the Num why the management did not provide security to protect our members and why they refused to call the SAPS to come and protect our members,” he asked.