South Africa’s Sibanye Gold
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South Africa’s Sibanye says sacks 1,500 workers over wildcat strike

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By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African mining firm Sibanye Gold has fired around 1,500 workers taking part in a wildcat strike at its Cooke mine, it said on Thursday, prompting an angry reaction from the biggest gold miners’ union.

Workers at the mine downed tools over a week ago, angered by a company drive to root out illegal miners which has included the arrest of employees for collusion and taking food down to the illegal miners working underground.

Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades, with bullion pilfered from both disused and operating mines, and Sibanye has vowed it will clear all illegal miners from its shafts by January 2018.

The Cooke mine employs close to 4,000 underground miners and Sibanye said the sacked workers could appeal their dismissals.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest union in the gold mining industry, said earlier that nearly 2,000 miners were fired, including 1,100 of its members, who it said had been “wrongly dismissed.”

Sibanye said 793 NUM members had been dismissed.

NUM said they had been forced to take part in the strike in the face of coercion and intimidation from rival union the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). Last week 16 NUM members at Cooke were assaulted.

AMCU officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Located about 60 kms(35 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, the Cooke mine produces about 181,700 ounces of gold a year and brings in around 377 million rand ($29 million) in operating profit, or just over 6 percent of the group’s total.

Over 240 illegal miners have been arrested since the stoppage began. They have been forced to come to the surface because of the strike, which has emptied the shafts of employees, thereby starving them of their sources of food and water underground – an unintended consequence of the strike.


(Writing by and additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter)


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South Africa’s Sibanye Gold to cut jobs at loss-making Cooke 4 mine

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Sibanye Gold has began talks with unions for job cuts at its Cooke 4 mine after failing to stem heavy losses at the operation.

The company first broached the subject of job cuts at the mine with unions in November 2014. Since then Cooke 4 has continued to fall short of production targets and accumulate losses forcing the producer to re-open talks, the company said.

The chief executive of Sibanye’s Gold operations, Wayne Robinson, said in a statement the losses at the mine threatened the viability of the other three Cooke operations.

“It is unfortunate that despite the joint efforts of stakeholders, the Cooke 4 operations have been unable to meet required production and cost targets and has continued to operate at a loss,” said Robinson.

The Cooke operations, including four mines and three processing plants, had an operating loss of 4 million rand ($274,000) in 2015, the company said.

Job cuts are a thorny issue in Africa’s most industrialised country where the unemployment rate is near 27 percent, a big concern for companies faced with labour disputes. Unions were unavailable to comment but have opposed job cuts elsewhere.

Sibanye spokesman James Wellsted said the previous round of negotiations in November had led to some job cuts and a new plan to revamp the mine but the operation continued losing money.

He said the mine was unlikely to run with fewer people if it was unable to pay for itself.

“I don’t want to preempt the consultation process and obviously we are looking for solutions but we have not been able to improve the situation,” Wellsted said when asked whether the mine would be shut.

Sibanye employs 1,700 workers at Cooke 4 and about 7,000 workers at all its four Cooke operations, he said.

($1 = 14.6182 rand)


(By Zandi Shabalala. Editing by James Macharia)

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