Northam Miners Want Safety Before Work Return Following Murders

  • National Union of Mineworkers has called for arrests
  • Mines minister wants progress update on investigation June 14

South African unions said their members will only return to work at Northam Platinum Ltd.’s Zondereinde operation when conditions are safe after two employees were killed around the mine by assailants who remain at large.

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest representative of employees at the Northam mine in Limpopo province, have demanded that arrests are made in the unsolved cases and that their safe passage to work is guaranteed, Livhuwani Mammburu, a spokesman for the group, said by phone. “They would like those conditions to be met before they return.”

The killings have drawn the attention of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who met with the NUM, the company and police at the mine Thursday. The department will return for an update on the progress June 14. Northam’s underground operations were idled following the murders, with 1,000 ounces of production lost daily.

As recently as four years ago, the NUM was the biggest union in South Africa’s mining industry. It has lost ground to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which became the largest representative of platinum employees and led its members on a five-month strike that crippled the operations of the world’s three biggest producers, all based in South Africa, in 2014.

An NUM member was shot dead on June 6 in the town of Northam, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the mine. The company said a second employee, who was killed the following day, is also part of that union. The AMCU said he belonged to its organization.

AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa on Thursday also said the group’s members shouldn’t return until conditions are safe.

“We recognized that tensions were high immediately following these tragic deaths, and for this reason temporarily suspended underground operations," Chief Executive Officer Paul Dunne said in a statement Thursday. “But, for all of us, it is time to go back to work. If we do not, we run the risk of undermining the viability of operations.”

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