Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 21 February 2012 – The work stoppage at Impala Platinum’s Rustenburg operations is now into its fifth week, and the more management observes the situation and interacts with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and some of the workers, the more apparent it is that the strike is not about wage demands.

An Impala Platinum statement issued here says that in fact to date no formal wage demands have been tabled by the NUM, which represents the vast majority of workers on the mine, or any other representative body.

“Instead,” it adds, “we have seen the emergence of a new rival union, the AMCU. This situation has been aggravated by the rejection of the NUM by a large constituency of its membership, specifically the rock drill operators. In our opinion, the socio-economic realities of this group have been exploited and much misinformation used to influence their action. The direct and criminal attack on Implats and the NUM membership has been extended to the informal and formal settlements around the mine, using service delivery grievances and unemployment to rally the community,” the statement continues.

It says that management believes that the majority of the employees want to return to work, but the unprecedented levels of intimidation and violence are preventing them from doing so. To this end, it is encouraging to note that the SAPS has increased its response on the ground by establishing a joint operations centre in Phokeng. Implats management is working with both the SAPS and the NUM in this regard.

“It is with regret that we report an incident this (Monday) morning,” the Implats statement reveals. The SAPS confronted a group of around 150 people on their way to the North Hostel in the early hours of the morning. A standoff ensued with two discharged workers and one current employee sustaining injuries; and a discharged winch operator from 7A shaft was fatally injured. The families of these men are being contacted and no further details are available. Investigations are underway to establish the cause of the death and injuries,” it adds.

Meanwhile Impala is continuing the re-employment process, with 7,762 people, including 919 rock drill operators, being re-hired. Management is encouraged by the employees returning to work and is in daily contact with the NUM at national and regional level to resolve the situation. It does recognise, however, that the level of intimidation and violence needs to be broken, and it calls on the SAPS to do whatever is required to ensure the safety of employees.

“Our capital projects remain largely unaffected by the work stoppage,” the statement continues. “Operations at the shafts continue to focus on cleaning, development and essential support services, as we do not, at this time, have sufficient rock drill operators available to sustain blasting operations.”

Implats continues to lose 20,000oz of platinum per week, and to date has lost 80,000oz of platinum in total.