IMPALA Platinum (Implats) has suspended production at two shafts at its newly acquired Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine as workers staged an underground sit-in.
About 2,205 employees remained underground at BRPM’s north and south shafts after launching the illegal action earlier on Monday. Their demands have yet to be determined, said the firm in a statement.
BRPM produced about 266,000 ounces of platinum group metals in its 2022 financial year when operated by Royal Bafokeng Platinum, acquired by Implats earlier this year.
“The occurrence of illegal underground protests and copycat illegal actions at mining operations in South Africa have become more prevalent in recent months and are a cause for both considerable concern for and disruption to the broader mining industry,” said Implats in its statement.
Underground sit-ins were held at the mines of Wesizwe Platinum as well as the the gold production facilities of Gold One. But this is the first time the illegal activity has been extended to one of South Africa’s largest miners.
The sit-in caps a difficult year for Implats which on November 27 suffered a catastrophic accident at at 11 shaft in Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Rustenburg Mines. A total of 13 miners died as the result of a conveyance failure and a further 75 were injured. In addition, the company has announced cost cutting measures amid a drastic decline in PGM prices.
It said protest action further imperilled the economic viability of its mining operations. “The longer-term impacts of these acts pose a risk to sustainable employment, particularly given the low metal price environment currently facing PGM producers,” it said.
Commenting further on today’s sit-in, Implats said the event stoked the possibility of violence. Coordinated protest actions “pose serious safety concerns for our employees, not just due to the provision of basic nutrition, hydration and ablution facilities, but also the risk to personal safety should the protest action escalate into hostage situations or result in physical violence”, it said.
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