Harmony Gold Mining Company has advised that all its employees have safely returned to surface at the Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville.

The estimated 1 700 Harmony Gold employees returned to surface shortly before midnight on Thursday night, following all-night discussions between management and union leadership.

The company said that a thorough independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the illegal sit-in, which lasted nearly 48 hours, will now be conducted.

Harmony Gold expects production at the Kusasalethu mine to proceed over the weekend.

Harmony CEO Peter Steenkamp said: “We are pleased that a resolution has been reached and that all our employees have returned to surface safely.”

On Thursday morning, Harmony Gold confirmed that around 1 700 employees were participating in an illegal sit-in at the company’s Kusasalethu mine. The mine sit-in started on Wednesday, 11 January when employees chose not to return to surface at the end of the morning shift.

No formal demands were made by the participating employees and it remains unclear what instigated the sit-in.