Wescoal's Khanyisa mine. Supplied.
DURBAN – JSE-listed mining group Wescoal Holdings has moved with speed to ensure that its coal supply to power utility Eskom is not affected after the dismissal of 274 contract mining employees at one of its subsidiaries.

Chief executive Reginald Demana said on Wednesday that the company would source coal from other mines and some from its subsidiaries to ensure that its contracted volumes of coal supply to Eskom was not compromised as a result of the suspension of production of between six to eight weeks at its Vanggatfontein Mine in Mpumalanga.

“The volume affected by the suspension of the mine averages 200 000 tons a month and the mine itself produces around 2.4 million tons a year. This equates to about 15 to 20 percent of production affected as a result of this suspension. It is unfortunate that these contracted workers decided to embark on this illegal and unprotected strike to air their grievances by destroying property,” Demana said.

He added that most of the damage to property was conducted at night. “It is a common practice in South Africa that protests are accompanied by the destruction of property and it is worrying, especially in a country with a high unemployment rate,” Demana said.

Vanggatfontein is run by Keaton Mining, a subsidiary of Wescoal. The operations are outsourced to a mining contractor.

The group said the unlawful employee conduct turned violent on April 16, with destruction of certain equipment on site and blockage of the Vanggatfontein entrance gate, which resulted in the new mining contractor applying for and obtaining a court interdict against its Vanggatfontein employees on April 17 from the Labour Court.

On Wednesday Wescoal said that a disciplinary hearing found that the only recommendation that would be appropriate in the circumstances would be that of dismissal.

Demana said workers in this country should act responsibly and follow the right channels to put forward their grievances and not destroy property.

“The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) did not necessarily condone the workers’ behaviour. There has been no formal response from the union as yet,” Demana said. Amcu is the union representative in the mine.

The group said there was little to no production expected during the Vanggatfontein downtime and the group expected that mine production would be reduced by 15 percent to 20 percent of budgeted annual production in financial year 2020.

“However, other activities at Vanggatfontein are expected to continue on a limited basis,” the group said.

Other Wescoal businesses were not affected.

Wescoal shares closed 2.07 percent lower at R1.44 on the JSE on Wednesday.