NUM lambasts CAPM’s plans to retrench up to 200 Orkney miners

13th August 2021 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Contributing Editor and Photographer

Labour union the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says it is “disturbed and aggrieved” by China Africa Precious Metal’s (CAPM’s) issuance of a Section 189 notice for the retrenchment of 200 of its 301 employees.

NUM Matlosana regional secretary Masibulele Naki says the union is disappointed, as the mine faces closure and being put into care and maintenance.

Mining Weekly reported in October 2012 that CAPM had acquired then-liquidated miner Pamodzi Gold’s Orkney gold mine, in the North West.

On August 13, Mining Weekly contacted CAPM for comment and to ascertain whether the Section 189 process was in effect, but was informed by the representative who answered the phone that CAPM “does not talk to the media”.

The NUM says it disagrees with CAPM cutting jobs by 80% of their current workforce and is, therefore, prepared to fight “tooth and nail” against the Section 189 notice.

In a statement, the NUM says it is disappointed that the Section 189 will affect the same workers who were previously impacted on when Pamodzi was liquidated and the mine closed.

“The NUM hoped that, when the mine reopened in November 2012, unemployment in this region would be reduced and that the conditions of workers in this mine would be aligned to those of the industry as undertaken by [CAPM],” the union states.

Naki adds that, among the promises made by CAPM in the years since 2012, has been commitments to fast-track the maintenance of the shaft and to engage in water pumping from underground. “Up until now, the company has not implemented [this] as per its promises,” he says.

In addition, Naki says CAPM also committed to reducing unemployment by employing more than 10 000 mineworkers, presumably between 2012 and today. However, he says both the NUM and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy have awaited the plan in which 2 000 workers would be recruited “soon” – a commitment which Naki says has not materialised.

Meanwhile, the NUM also suggests that South African miners may have been exploited at the Orkney mine, saying that, in 2018, the NUM’s members had gone on strike to protest against health and safety conditions at the mine as a result of risk assessments not being done to resume production.

“Workers were forced to work in dangerous workplaces underground,” the union states.

In an effort to remedy the need to retrench mineworkers, the NUM suggests CAPM put all workers on rotational layoff during a period while CAPM fixes and maintains the winder headgear.

This, NUM says, will enable workers to earn at least 50% of their salary. The NUM says CAPM’s “problem is temporary”.

In addition, the NUM states that CAPM must apply for an employee relief scheme, similar to what has already been approved by the government for all companies struggling financially through the Covid-19 pandemic.