NUM wants Mantashe to follow through on threat to revoke Sibanye's mining rights

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The sun sets over Driefontein gold mine.
The sun sets over Driefontein gold mine.
Naashon Zalk/Bloomberg
  • The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) wants mining minister Gwede Mantashe to follow through on his threat to revoke Sibanye-Stillwater’s mining rights.
  • Mantashe was remarking on the Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman's comments that the company could withstand a strike for years if needed.
  • Sibanye says it will engage with this if the "prospect is formally raised", but added it has the right to protect its shareholders through "appropriate legal channels". 

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) wants Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to follow through on his threat to revoke Sibanye-Stillwater’s mining rights in the gold sector.

The NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike for nearly three months over wage demands at Sibanye’s gold mines in Gauteng and the Free State. 

Remarking on the Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman's comments that the company could withstand a strike for years if needed, Mantashe last week suggested his department could cancel the company’s mining rights because it appears disinterested in using them.

Section 47 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act gives the minister power to suspend or cancel rights, permits or permissions in particular circumstances. 

"With poor black mineworkers on strike for almost three months demanding a mere R1 000 and 6% in living wages, Sibanye-Stillwater continues to show workers a middle finger," NUM said in a statement on Monday.

"We will be fully supporting the minister when he starts the process of revoking Sibanye-Stillwater’s mining licence. We are calling for Minister Gwede Mantashe not to capitulate when threatened with legal action by this evil company."

Sibanye-Stillwater does not want to mine, the NUM said. "It is arrogantly sitting on top of the properties of minerals, preventing other potential companies from mining". 

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said the company had noted the comments made by Mantashe as well as the statement released by the union.

"We will engage with [the] Department of Mineral Resources and Energy if this prospect is formally raised with the group but reserve our right to protect the interests of our stakeholders through appropriate legal channels," he said.

The suspension of the gold operations comes as a result of a deadlock between the company and the two unions.

"It was AMCU and the NUM who initially called the strike which has halted production at our South Africa gold operations and have dragged out this extended industrial action," Wellsted said.

The demands made by the unions would affect the sustainability and life of the gold operations, resulting in early job losses for many employees and having significant consequences for other stakeholders, he said. "The reason we are holding out is that the industry cannot continue to absorb above-inflation costs."

Against a wage demand of a R1 000 increase in each year of a three-year agreement, the unions took two options to their members on Friday, both of which were rejected.

The first offer is for increases of R800 for three years, plus an increase of R850 in year four and an increase of R900 in year five. Added to these figures is a R50 increase in the living-out allowance each year, plus a profit-sharing scheme. 

The second offer includes the same increase in the living out allowance, R800 increases in each of the three years, a R900 increase in the fourth year, and a R1 000 increase in the fifth.

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