Smokey Hills contractor killed by mob

[] — AN EMPLOYEE of a mining contractor at Platinum Australia’s Smokey Hills was killed on Thursday in the wake of ongoing labour unrest at the mine.

A police spokesperson confirmed on Friday that Kobus Jansen van Rensburg was killed at around 16:30 close to the mine – at the Maandagshoek area near Steelpoort in Limpopo – when the minibus he was travelling in on his way home was attacked by an angry mob.

Jansen van Rensburg was employed by JIC Mining, Smokey Hills’ mining contractor which took over operations at the mine from Redpath Mining in October.

“The minibus transporting employees of JIC was ambushed by a mob of people, reportedly including some ex-employees whose services were terminated early in February 2011,’ read a JIC statement.

“Prior to the ambush of the mini bus, a vehicle in which three JIC employees were travelling was stoned, but managed to speed past the crowd. Injuries were also sustained by some of the occupants.

“The eight passengers of the mini bus were caught in a much worse situation when the driver of the minibus apparently attempted to turn the vehicle around but got the vehicle stuck broadways across the road. The driver ran away as the crowd charged the vehicle, stoning it, turning it on its side and then setting it on fire.’

Jansen van Rensburg was reportedly the first person who managed to escape from the vehicle. He died on the scene from the injuries he sustained. Five employees were hospitalised, of which one in intensive care.

Platinum Australia has subsequently requested a trading halt for its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange.

“The company is seeking the trading halt pending an announcement to the market regarding matters to do with operations,’ read a company release.

Smokey Hills has been the scene of going labour unrest since JIC took over as contractor, following the dismissal of several Redpath employees.

In February, JIC obtained an interdict to compel some 600 employees who were engaged in an unprotected strike to return to work or face dismissal. The majority (only 25 returned to work following the interdict) were dismissed, but it is unsure at this stage how many have been re-employed.

Miningmx reported on Thursday that the immediate performance of Smokey Hills could dictate the fortunes of Platinum Australia, following another disappointing performance in the March quarter.

The company’s share price has dropped more than 50% this year from about A$0.85 in January to a low of A$0.40 earlier in May.