AngloGold mine shut as NUM prepares strike

South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti said it expected a government inspection to be conducted on Monday at one of its larger mines, which was shut on Friday after a miner was killed in a rock-fall.

AngloGold, the world’s number three gold producer in which Anglo American has a minor stake, shut its TauTona mine after the worker died in the early hours of Friday, and said it might have a better indication on when the mine could re-open after the government officials’ probe.

A spate of deaths in the country’s mines, some of which are the world’s deepest, has set the 300 000-strong National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and mining firms on a collision course, and the union wants its members to down tools for one day in protest against what it calls “genocide” in the mines.

In the latest step in preparation to their action, the union said it would start holding mass meetings for its members at various workplaces for briefings on the unprecedented strike.

The Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) is also on the war-path, and has launched a crackdown on mines, which it is routinely shutting after accidents, spurred by President Thabo Mbeki’s order for a safety audit on all the country’s mines.

The mines can only re-open after strict safety improvements.

“A DME [Department of Minerals and Energy] inspection is happening today [Monday], and we may know after that,” AngloGold spokesperson Steve Lenahan told Reuters when asked when the TauTona mine would re-open.

TauTona produced 116 000 ounces of gold in the third quarter to end-September, out of the group’s output of 1,43-million ounces, but Lenahan could not give a daily breakdown of how much was being lost in output during the temporary closure.

Shares in AngloGold traded 1,04% up at R282 by 9.17am GMT, partially recovering from a sharp dip of 4,65% on Friday, pressured by the closure of TauTona. The gold index added 0,65%.

Gold Fields’s second-biggest mine, Kloof, is due to resume full output on Monday at its number four shaft. The shaft was shut on Wednesday after an accident and re-opened on Friday.

Mobilising for strike

More than 150 workers have been killed this year and the NUM, which has also urged the government to prosecute mining companies for the deaths, wants to cripple output in the world’s top producer of gold and platinum for a day to force companies to focus on safety.
The union is now only awaiting a permit from authorities to stage the strike.

“We are mobilising our members in mass meetings at their work places as from today [Monday]. These will be briefings addressed by regional leaders on why we want to go on strike,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.

“The date for the strike is not very far.”

Since Mbeki ordered a safety audit on all South African mines in early October, several big metal producers have seen their operations temporarily shut down after accidents, affecting output and metal prices.

Mbeki ordered the audit after 3 200 workers were trapped around 2,2km underground for more than 24 hours at Harmony Gold’s Elandsrand mine after an accident severed an electricity cable to the mine’s main lift.

Platinum hit a record last month on supply jitters after Anglo Platinum, the world’s top producer, shut three shafts at its biggest mine after a worker was killed. - Reuters

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