A MINE

Un­em­ploy­ment, ser­vice de­liv­ery is­sues and over­crowd­ing plague set­tle­ments near closed mines

CityPress - - Business -

An­gloGold has promised not to re­peat what has be­come a pat­tern with old gold mines where they get re­peat­edly sold on to smaller spec­u­la­tive com­pa­nies un­til, al­most in­evitably, they go broke.

Liq­ui­da­tion gen­er­ally en­sues with work­ers robbed of sev­er­ance pay and en­vi­ron­men­tal li­a­bil­i­ties en­ter­ing a le­gal no-man’s-land.

Har­mony Gold, which was built on old sec­ond-hand gold mines, rep­re­sents the best-case sce­nario.

The in­fa­mous col­lapse of Pamodzi Gold rep­re­sents the worst case – in­ci­den­tally in­volv­ing some of the same mines that Har­mony even­tu­ally sold on.

Blyvoor was sold to Vil­lage Main Reef in 2012, only a year be­fore go­ing into liq­ui­da­tion. This year a new com­pany, Blyvoor Gold, is talk­ing about re­open­ing one shaft on the prop­erty.

An­gloGold is pump­ing wa­ter from two of Blyvoor’s shafts. With its nearby Mpo­neng mine still promis­ing a fairly long life­span in the area, the com­pany will be vol­un­tar­ily de­wa­ter­ing the mines for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

An­gloGold CEO Srini­vasan Venkatakr­ish­nan ear­lier told City Press the com­pany would be very cir­cum­spect about sell­ing its old op­er­a­tions the way it did in the late 1990s. “We are cog­nisant of what has hap­pened at some other mines,” he said.

Molefe says he is thank­ful Blyvoor’s vil­lage has not de­te­ri­o­rated in the same way that the vil­lage at the Buf­fels­fontein mine out­side Klerks­dorp has. The mine was closed in 2013, also by Vil­lage Main Reef.

The Blyvoor vil­lage still has wa­ter, but only be­cause the as­so­ci­a­tion took the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to court. There has been a pro­tracted at­tempt to reach a deal with Eskom to in­stall pre­paid elec­tric­ity me­ters in the vil­lage.

LESSONS

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Early on in the liq­ui­da­tion the vil­lage was sold to a pri­vate prop­erty devel­oper who in­sti­tuted rentals of R3 500 to R4 500. This devel­oper with­drew.

An in­sider-out­sider dy­namic has now evolved with the res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion try­ing to keep vil­lage in­hab­i­tants from sub­let­ting mine houses. Sev­eral houses on the fringes of the vil­lage are oc­cu­pied de­spite very clearly suf­fer­ing sink­hole dam­age – a peren­nial prob­lem due to the in­ten­sive min­ing of the area over decades.

“It is heart­break­ing. We had 1 700 em­ploy­ees at liq­ui­da­tion and some were not stay­ing here. We had 950 house­holds and the two hos­tels,” said Molefe. “Now we have 6 000 peo­ple. There is a lot of over­crowd­ing.”

Joseph Ram­musa, an­other mem­ber of the Blyvoor res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion, started work­ing at Blyvoor in 1980.

He wit­nessed first-hand the de­cline of Car­letonville as one of the world’s ma­jor gold fields.

“Car­letonville has been af­fected by a lot of re­trench­ments. Mer­a­fong was a min­ing city.

“When I started here I think we were about 18 000 peo­ple on this mine.

“I have seen re­trench­ments ev­ery year or two years. We have gone through a lot at this mine.

“It is go­ing to af­fect us,” he says of the TauTona re­trench­ments.

“Some of the lucky peo­ple stay­ing here in our vil­lage got em­ploy­ment there [af­ter the liq­ui­da­tion].

“Any re­trench­ments are last-in-first-out, so ob­vi­ously those from Blyvoor that were em­ployed by TauTona will get re­trenched first,” said Ram­musa.

“It is not only af­fect­ing the vil­lage. It af­fects Car­letonville. Those busi­nesses do­ing busi­ness with TauTona will be af­fected. The guys work­ing sup­ply­ing pipes will get re­trenched. It is a broad cir­cle, it does not only af­fect us mine peo­ple.”

In 2013 Ram­musa was work­ing in Blyvoor’s print­ing of­fice when he was given an or­der to trans­late the mine’s no­tice­boards: op­er­a­tions are to cease im­me­di­ately.

“Maybe af­ter a month or two it starts sink­ing in and you re­alise it is true, you are un­em­ployed. Your life stops dead, you have no in­come. I had been work­ing here for 32 years, so you can imag­ine.

“Within a month it was a free-for-all. There was no se­cu­rity,” he said.

De­spite the core vil­lage be­ing mostly in­tact, sev­eral mine of­fices and a large re­cre­ation cen­tre on the Blyvoor grounds have been stripped down to al­most noth­ing.

DEAD CITY

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