South African police arrest striking miners

Police arrest dozens of workers for seizing equipment worth millions of dollars from Kumba Iron Ore in Northern Cape.

Kumba Iron Ore has accused striking miners of malicious damage to property among other criminal charges [Reuters]
Kumba Iron Ore has accused striking miners of malicious damage to property among other criminal charges [Reuters]

South African police have arrested 40 striking workers in a pre-dawn raid for seizing equipment worth millions of dollars from Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore subsidiary, a police spokesperson has said.

They were part of nearly 300 workers that Kumba sacked on Monday following an illegal strike they launched nearly two weeks ago at its Sishen mine in Northern Cape province.

“At about three o’clock [01:00 GMT] this morning, we entered the mine premises where the illegal strikers were keeping the mine equipment in their possession. We managed to arrest about 40 of them,” Lieutenant Colonel Hendrik Swart, police spokesperson for Northern Cape, told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Sishen confirmed the workers had been removed.

‘Criminal charges’

“The illegal occupation of the company’s Sishen mine has been brought to an end by the police who removed the strikers in the early hours of the morning,” the company said in a statement.

“Criminal charges of extortion, intimidation, theft, trespassing, malicious damage to property and contempt of court have been laid,” the company added.

 South Africa has been in grips of wave of wildcat mining strikes that have spiralled out of platinum sector [AFP]

Police regained possession of and handed over the heavy mining equipment – which included 88 haul lorries – the striking workers had seized since the strike started on October 3.

The miners had threatened to destroy the equipment if a pay increase of 15,000 rand ($1,715) for all workers, above what they already earn, had not been met.

Those arrested will face contempt of court charges after they ignored a Labour Court order to vacate the mine and release equipment worth 3.3 billion rand ($375m), police said.

The Labour Court had also ordered that the miners immediately vacate Kumba’s premises, release the equipment, and not come within 500 metres of the firm’s property.

Situated in South Africa’s Northern Cape, Sishen is Anglo American-owned Kumba’s flagship plant and is one of the world’s largest open-pit mines, according to the company’s website.

The strike has paralysed the mine’s around-the-clock operations since the start of October with daily production losses of about 120,000 tonnes.

‘Economic pressure’

South Africa has been in the grips of a wave of wildcat mining strikes that have spiralled out of the platinum sector into other industries including gold.

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Westonaria, said the ongoing strikes are “worrying” for the average citizen.

“It is worrying for the average South Africans, because it seems like the strike won’t end. Government-paid bus drivers have also gone on strike which could affect up to 42,000 passengers and municipal workers are threatening to go on strike if not this week then early next week,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gold One said it will suspend operations at its Ezulwini mine, in central South Africa, for at least a month, after dismissing more than 1,400 workers who took part in a week-long wildcat strike.

“Ezulwini is a marginal operation and the recent unprotected industrial action has placed it under considerable economic pressure. We have taken this decision to suspend our operations at Ezulwini in order to ensure the safety of our employees and security of assets,” said Gold One President Neal Froneman.

Talks to end strikes in the gold sector faltered this week, and platinum mines are also affected by the unrest.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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