NUM calls for government intervention as labour tensions rise at Blyvoor gold mine

SOUTH Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called on the government to intervene at Blyvoor, a gold mine west of Johannesburg where the union claims it is being edged out by a rival union illegally constituted by the mine’s management.

Blyvoor, previously part of the Gengold group before being consolidated into Durban Roodepoort Deep, was bought by mining entrepreneur Peter Skeat in 2016. A source told Miningmx that “war was breaking out” at the mine.

According to a NUM statement today, tensions are rising between workers and management regarding the creation of its Blyvoor Workers’ Union (BWU). The NUM said BWU was forcing mine employees to sign up as members.

Business Maverick, an online publication, said in a report on April 5, that Blyvoor has been temporarily closed amid protests. Some 60 NUM members have been dismissed by the managing company – Skeat’s Blyvoor Gold – for launching a wildcat strike, it said.

The publication said a company director and leader of the Blyvoor Workers’ Union, Wels Sempe, was assassinated on March 2 whilst driving to work.

Said NUM today: “Tension is building up between workers and the company’s management over workers’ right to freedom of association”. It added that management had been intimidating and provoking workers.

“The worker’s committee has requested us to ask for an intervention from the Department of Mineral Resources so that their plight could be heard”, said Zimisele Ponti, NUM Carletonville regional chairperson.

When Skeat bought Blyvoor, he planned to resurrect it through two projects – the first to treat surface tailings dumps containing an estimated 1.3 million ounces of gold – and the second to restart underground mining operations at an initial rate of 50,000 oz of gold per year, rising to 100,000 oz annually after three years.

The Blyvoor mine has a chequered history in that former owners DRDGOLD sold it to Bernard Swanepoel’s Village Main Reef in 2011, but Village stopped mining operations and put Blyvoor into provisional liquidation in July 2013.

The mine was subsequently invaded by illegal miners who did major damage to the surface plant but were not able to get into the underground workings at the No 5 shaft where the new underground project is to be developed.