Village Main Asks South Africa Police Head to Help End Strike

Village Main Reef Ltd. said it will today approach South Africa’s chief of police, Riah Phiyega, to help it end a weeklong underground sit-in by workers at one of its gold and antimony shafts in the northern Limpopo province.

The company is trying to resolve a strike that started on July 10 when about 100 employees refused to exit the Monarch Decline Shaft at the Consolidated Murchison mine. The stoppage, which halted the operation, involves a total of 918 workers. Those underground have had access to food, water and electricity, the company said.

“We’ve approached the national commissioner’s office to assist us,” Ferdi Dippenaar, head of the company’s gold unit, said today by phone. The police’s regional office has so far not assisted the company to gain access to the site, Dippenaar said yesterday.

The miners, who are members of the National Union of Mineworkers, are demanding they be paid out funds or dividends from a share trust set up by the company that Village bought the mine from in 2010. Unions including the NUM this week rejected a 4 percent wage increase offered by the Chamber of Mines, which negotiates pay on behalf of gold-mining companies. The NUM asked for a 61 percent raise for some entry-level employees.

The mine has not yet been in a position to pay returns because of recent investments in the asset, Village said. While Village has obtained a court interdict to halt the strike, it won’t start dismissing employees yet, Dippenaar said.

“We remain hopeful to have rational discussions with the union,” he said.

Police Talks

A spokesman for Phiyega, Phuti Setati, was unaware of Village’s request, he said by phone. He didn’t rule out that discussions with Village may take place.

The company is one of the producers that this month signed a framework brokered by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to restore peace and stability to the mining industry after unrest shaved 0.5 percentage point off growth last year and cost the economy about 15 billion rand ($1.5 billion) in lost output.

As part of that pact, the government promised to enforce the rule of law, it said in a July 3 statement.

About 2,400 miners were trapped underground at Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s Thembelani operation in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, last month when some employees prevented them from returning to the surface. The dispute was resolved after one night on June 15.

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