Implats says protest over as miners return to surface

MINERS have returned to surface at Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Impala Bafokeng mine formally ending an underground sit-in that started on Monday.

Implats said on Wednesday said North and South shaft employees had surfaced at 17.05 paving the way for it to start the year-end operational shutdown of the operation.

“Our focus now shifts to safely completing the planned operational shutdown at Impala Bafokeng ahead of the upcoming Christmas break, instituting required disciplinary processes, and securing the sustainability of the operation amid the low metal price environment,” it said in a statement.

A total of 2,205 employees were involved in the sit-in without the support of the majority of the mine, the National Union of Mineworkers. There were reports earlier on Wednesday that some miners were being held underground against their wishes.

Some 167 employees had returned to surface on Tuesday.

The event turned on misconceptions regarding employee benefits at Impala Bafokeng including views that accumulated pension fund balances of employees can be paid out to employees.

Other misonceptions held by the principals behind the sit-in were that statutory taxation provisions should not apply to award and/or bonus payments, as well as concerns related to “the historical employee profit share arrangement being converted, at the election of employees, into an employee share ownership trust”, said Implats in an earlier statement.

The sit-in caps a difficult year for Implats which on November 27 suffered a catastrophic accident at at 11 shaft in Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Rustenburg Mines. A total of 13 miners died as the result of a conveyance failure and a further 75 were injured. In addition, the company has announced cost cutting measures.

Underground sit-ins were held at the mines of Wesizwe Platinum as well as the the gold production facilities of Gold One. But this is the first time the illegal activity has been extended to one of South Africa’s largest miners.