Union says latest unrest at RBM may be final nail in the coffin

7th June 2021 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

Trade union Uasa has expressed concern about the dangerous situation prevailing at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), in KwaZulu-Natal, calling for decisive action from President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, the police and provincial government.

The union explains in a release that community members on June 4 started burning mine equipment amid their feud with the mine.

The community has had a prolonged dispute with the mine, including a traditional leadership squabble and another in which locals demand to be employed at the mine.

The parent company of RBM, Rio Tinto, last year threatened to close the mine that employs about 5 000 workers. Rio Tinto has also threatened to hold back on R6.5-billion worth of investment in RBM, which it initially pledged during a Presidential Investment Summit late in 2019.

Uasa says the burning of equipment, coupled with the fatal shooting of RBM GM Nico Swart last month, may just see the mine closing, which happens to be the largest taxpayer in the province.

“The mine and its workers deserve nothing less than immediate action to secure operations, jobs and safety,” the union laments.

RBM MD Werner Duvenhage comments that safety of the company's workforce continues to be its top priority and one that it takes very seriously, including the well-being of  people following the community unrest targeted at the operations.

"We continue to work closely with the authorities and we would like to acknowledge the ongoing support of the regional and national governments."