Dineo Faku

Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) has fired almost half of the workforce at its Mooiplaats colliery in Mpumalanga for participating in an unprotected strike.

The dismissal of the workers did not underscore the possibility that Mooiplaats, which has been operating at a loss, could be closed, the junior mining company said on Friday.

“We are not at the point where the mine can close. The mine has been undergoing a re-structuring process to ensure that it remains operational and not for closure… The company would not be undergoing an extensive restructuring process if the intention is to close the operation,” CoAL spokeswoman Sakhile Ndlovu said.

CoAL said it had dismissed 178 out of the 368 employees at Mooiplaats after the strike that began last Monday.

The remaining employees at the mine had returned to work on Friday to resume operation at two of its five underground sections, the processing plant and administrative functions.

CoAL said the employees had been given a week to appeal against their dismissal.

In restructuring the loss-making operation to contain costs, CoAL began a consultative process in line with section 189 of the Labour Relations Act that will lead to retrenchments.

The company said it was consulting with stakeholders, including unions, and was not able to say how many people would be retrenched.

“We are trying to get back to production, in the next few weeks we will advise the market,” Ndlovu said.

The employees who were dismissed were members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and were part of the collective bargaining unit. They were protesting against the suspension of four colleagues who breached picketing rules and the terms of a court interdict during a protected strike at the mine in October, and were demanding that the suspensions be lifted.

Meanwhile, Village Main Reef announced that employees at its Blyvoor gold mine near Carletonville had returned to work on Thursday following an illegal strike sparked by union rivalry.

Village said employees went on strike last week amid tension between NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

The company issued an ultimatum to employees indicating that if they did not return to work on Thursday, it would be forced to dismiss them.

Village is mulling possible retrenchments at its Blyvoor mine and expected that 960 of its 2 100 permanent employees could be affected.

Also on Friday, Atlatsa Resources confirmed that the unprotected industrial action at Bokoni Platinum Mines, which began on October 1, had ended and that 90 percent of its workforce were back at work.

According to an agreement, re-employed workers will receive a once-off payment of R2 000 and a R400 increase to their existing travel allowance. The existing wage agreement at Bokoni, due to expire in July next year, remains in place with no further amendments.

Employees had attended a safe start-up programme, and production at Bokoni was expected to resume today.

The company added that certain individuals, who had engaged in criminal activity during the unprotected strike action, had been arrested and remained in police custody.

CoAL closed 5.14 percent lower at R1.66 on Friday while Village gained 0.87 percent to close at R1.16. Atlatsa added 2.86 percent to R1.44.