138 il­le­gal min­ers now ar­rested

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

A WILDCAT strike at Sibanye Gold’s Cooke op­er­a­tions west of Jo­han­nes­burg con­tin­ued yes­ter­day and 138 il­le­gal min­ers there have been ar­rested since the stop­page be­gan on Tues­day, a com­pany spokesper­son said.

Sibanye said the strike, which has seen 16 min­ers as­saulted in a wave of in­tim­i­da­tion, was trig­gered by worker anger at a com­pany drive to root out il­le­gal min­ers, which has in­cluded the ar­rest of em­ploy­ees for col­lu­sion and a pol­icy that for­bids food in un­der­ground op­er­a­tions.

Il­le­gal gold min­ing has plagued South Africa for decades, with bul­lion pil­fered from both op­er­at­ing and dis­used mines.

Sibanye has vowed it will clear all il­le­gal min­ers from its shafts by Jan­uary 2018.

The Cooke mines have been at the cen­tre of il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties at Sibanye’s op­er­a­tions.

Prior to the walk­out, 101 il­le­gal min­ers had been ar­rested this year along with 58 em­ploy­ees ac­cused of col­lu­sion.

Union agree­ment

Il­le­gal min­ers can spend weeks un­der­ground, which re­quires large amounts of food and wa­ter – which is why Sibanye has banned its em­ploy­ees from tak­ing any food un­der­ground, with union agree­ment.

It is also why so many il­le­gal min­ers have been forced to the sur­face since the strike be­gan, as their source of food and wa­ter – col­lud­ing em­ploy­ees – has dried up, one of the in­ad­ver­tent con­se­quences of the stop­page.

The Cooke op­er­a­tions, which em­ploy al­most 4 000 un­der­ground min­ers, are mar­ginal and Sibanye spokesper­son James Well­sted said their vi­a­bil­ity is at risk if the strike be­comes pro­longed.

“One of the rea­sons why the mine has not been per­form­ing is be­cause many of the em­ploy­ees have been fo­cused on as­sist­ing il­le­gal min­ers in­stead of their jobs,” he said.

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