Accusations by a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leader that the closure of Aquarius Platinum’s Everest mine in Mpumalanga was a bid to blackmail the ANC on the eve of its policy conference were brushed aside by party spokesman Jackson Mthembu last night.
However, he warned that if mines had been shut deliberately to hold the party conference to ransom, that position would be “counterproductive”.
He was responding to claims by NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka that the mining sector was using blackmail to maintain the current tax, beneficiation, and ownership structure.
“The NUM perceives all these panic buttons pressed by the industry as nothing else but an attempt to blackmail the ruling party,” he said in a statement.
“The NUM advises the ANC, the state and the alliance partners to reject the blackmail and move forward in getting sustainable solutions.”
The union claimed “they do not want any transformation in the mining sector. They want it to remain as it is.”
Operations at the Everest platinum mine near Lydenburg were suspended on Thursday last week because of low commodity prices and labour issues, the company stated.
The company said the “ramp-up” at Everest had been hampered by poor ground conditions and ongoing disruptive industrial relations.
“These issues, coupled with the present low platinum group metals price environment, have rendered the mine uneconomical.”
The mine was placed on care and maintenance last week
Mthembu said the purpose of the discussion at the policy conference was to bring all parties to the debate on board about how to grow the economy and create jobs, particularly for the poor. He said the discussions, which excluded the possibility of nationalising mines, “includes big business (and) mining”.
He said, however, that there needed to be a thorough debate about the social responsibility of big companies towards the communities where the mines that produced their profits were located.
Merely shutting mines “is entirely counterproductive”, he said, noting that this would have the impact of throwing scores of workers out of work. – Donwald Pressly and Sapa