Striking miners chant slogans at the AngloGold Ashanti mine in Carletonville, northwest of Johannesburg October 18, 2012. Striking miners at one of Gold Fields' South African operations returned to work on Thursday, but there was no end in sight to the country's worst wildcat walkouts since the end of apartheid due to renewed unrest at Lonmin's Marikana mine. More than 80,000 miners have downed tools since August in often violent strikes that are hitting growth and investor confidence in Africa's biggest economy, and raising questions about President Jacob Zuma's leadership. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Dineo Faku

Gold Fields, the world’s fourth-largest producer of the metal, has dismissed 8 500 employees at its Kloof Driefontein Complex (KDC) East after they failed to heed an ultimatum to return to work by yesterday.

The employees could appeal today against their dismissals themselves or through union representatives, the company said.

This brings the number of dismissed employees in the mining sector to at least 26 000.

Earlier this month, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) fired 12 000 at its Rustenburg operations, Kumba Iron Ore fired 180, Gold One International dismissed 1 435, and Atlatsa Resources, which owns Bokoni Platinum mine, shed 2 161.

Gold Fields also dismissed 1 500 employees at the KDC West operation on Friday.

Amplats delayed the dismissal of employees at Union and Amendelbult mines pending the outcome of negotiations with unions. Meanwhile, platinum stocks crashed yesterday on the JSE as the metal fell 2 percent.

Amplats fell 2.36 percent to R396.50, Impala Platinum was down 5 percent to R147.44 and Lonmin dropped 2.07 percent to R68.28.

About 11 000 workers were retained at KDC West operations last week after they appealed their dismissal.

Yesterday, Harmony Gold issued a final ultimatum for 5 400 employees at its Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville to return to work by tomorrow morning or face dismissal. Harmony took the cue to issue an ultimatum from Gold Fields and AngloGold Ashanti, which have done so with some measure of success. AngloGold Ashanti said that half of the 24 000 workers who were on strike had returned.

Workers at both Kopanang and Great Noligwa were back for the second day, AngloGold Ashanti spokesperson Alan Fine said yesterday.

He said that a first shift had returned to Moab Khotsong yesterday, meaning about half of the 24 000 who had been on strike were back at work. Harmony said it had lost 13 000 ounces of gold and about 20 days’ production to the strike.

Yesterday, Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu, called on employers to review their decisions of dismissing striking workers, saying that it sent a bad message about the country’s employment image.

Tomorrow employers and unions in the gold sector are expected to sign an agreement expected to end the wildcat strikes.

The strikes, which have crippled the industry, are expected to come to a head when miners realise they will receive no salary because of the no-work, no-pay principle at the end of the month.

Lesiba Seshoka, the National Union of Mineworkers spokesman, said the strikes would soon come to an end, and he was confident that the workers would welcome the signing of the agreement.

He added that tomorrow’s signing might be used to appeal to employers to award stipends when employees returned to work.

“Some workers live outside the area of the mine, and they have no money since the strike [started].”