File image: Reuters

Workers ended their sit-in over a safety bonus dispute at AngloGold Ashanti's Tau Tona shaft near Carletonville on Friday, and returned to the surface, the company said.

“The expectation is that people will return to work from Sunday,” said spokesman Alan Fine.

On Thursday, miners staged a sit-in at the Mponeng shaft, but surfaced after discussions with management. The sit-in at Tau Tona

began on Friday morning.

Fine said this had ended by mid-morning, after discussions and agreement over the safety incentive and the timing of its payment.

“Some compromise was reached on that,” he said.

Payment of the bonus would be brought forward to “some time next week”.

Comment from the mineworkers was not immediately available.

The company, which had just managed to get 12,000 striking workers back to their posts, had locked the Mponeng shaft for repairs, after a fire that had been started there caused electrical damage.

That shaft would reopen on Sunday.

Earlier, miner Rodgers Motlhabane said by telephone that workers arrived at the Mponeng shaft, one of the deepest in the world, for their night and morning shifts not knowing what was going on.

“They never came to explain to us why we can't come underground. They just come and announce with a hippo (armoured vehicle),” he said.

“We are not on strike because they are the ones who locked us out.”

Motlhabane said that according to the return-to-work agreement, workers would receive an incentive bonus, with no conditions.

However, on their return, they were told there were conditions, including that they not strike for the next fortnight; there were no fatal accidents between now and November 16; they not engage in any action to disrupt production; and, they meet a high target for gold production.

“It is not possible. Anything can happen underground,” said Motlhabane.

“Conditions underground are very different.”

He said although he was a member of the National Union of Mineworkers, he was not speaking on the union's behalf, but as the “voice of the working class”.

Fine said the company believed workers had known about the conditions attached to the bonus.

Even management's bonuses were linked to safety, and the company wanted to instil a strong sense of safety consciousness, he said. - Sapa