Home » Rebel Miners Hold Hundreds Hostage in South African Gold Mine

Rebel Miners Hold Hundreds Hostage in South African Gold Mine

Tensions high after murder of company investigator and disciplinary hearings

by Motoni Olodun

Hundreds of workers have been trapped underground in a South African gold mine since Dec 7, after a group of rebel miners seized control of the security access cards and blocked the exit.

The hostage situation occurred at the Gold One mine in Springs, east of Johannesburg, where tensions have been high since the murder of a company investigator and a series of disciplinary hearings.

The company said that 447 workers, including some middle managers and contractors, were held below ground by a small group of masked employees who were unhappy with the outcome of the hearings.

The hearings resulted in the dismissal of 50 workers who were involved in a previous protest in October when more than 500 miners stayed underground for almost three days amid a union standoff.

The company also said that one of its investigators, who was part of the disciplinary process, was shot dead in his car on Dec 5, but the motive was not clear.

Police said they were monitoring the situation but had not seen any criminal activities.

The Ministry of Mineral Resources expressed its deep concern at the “growing trend” of underground protests, which it said posed a serious health and safety risk that could result in injuries and loss of life.

The ministry urged the parties to resolve the dispute peacefully and respect the rights of the workers.

The Gold One mine is not the only site of labor unrest in South Africa’s mining sector, which has been plagued by violence, strikes, and low wages for years.

On Dec 8, 250 miners demanding better pay and benefits ended their three-day underground protest at the Bakubung platinum mine west of Pretoria, after reaching an agreement with the management.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represented the workers, said they were also angry that the company wanted to cut 500 jobs but was hiring new managers.

Some 28 miners suffering from chronic illnesses came to the surface during the protest.

The NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said the union was committed to finding lasting solutions to the challenges facing the mining industry.

He said the union hoped that the government and the employers would work together to improve the living and working conditions of the miners, who are the backbone of the country’s economy.

Source: The Straits Times

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