Northam Platinum Mine Resumes After Murders Halted Operation

  • Police have made arrests in the killings of two workers
  • Zondereinde mine was losing about 1,000 ounces of output daily

Work at the world’s deepest platinum mine resumed Tuesday night as employees returned to the Northam Platinum Ltd. site in South Africa, ending an eight-day stoppage spurred by the murders of two of their colleagues in union rivalry.

Workers returned following a visit by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and after the police disclosed the arrest of several suspects in the killings, the company said in a statement Wednesday. The shares rose for the first time in six days.

Underground operations at Zondereinde were halted when a National Union of Mineworkers member was shot dead in the town of Northam about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the mine on June 5. A second person, who the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union says is a member of its group, was killed the next day. The company was losing about 1,000 ounces of output 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 AMCU, 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.

The mine employs about 7,000 people, 80 percent of whom are members of the NUM.

Northam shares erased an earlier increase of as much as 8 percent, falling 0.6 percent to 40.51 rand at 4:13 p.m. in Johannesburg, giving the company a market value of 20.7 billion rand. The stock has advanced 54 percent this year.

AMCU members are willing to return to work provided they are paid for the days missed and that the company can assure their safety, spokeswoman Kamohelo Mohapi said by phone. They also want living arrangements in hostels reevaluated, saying segregation on the grounds of union membership must end.

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