Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Johannesburg, South Africa – Miners from an unregistered rival union are keeping hundreds of their fellow miners underground for a second day in a South African gold mine due to a union dispute, as confirmed by both police and mine officials. The situation has resulted in 15 miners sustaining injuries.

The incident is marked by conflicting statements, with the unregistered union asserting that it represents the majority of employees at the mine and is seeking formal recognition. They claim that the underground workers are staging a protest and deny any hostage situation.

Jon Hericourt, the CEO of New Kleinfontein Gold Mine company, which manages the mine, provided details of the incident. He revealed that it all began on Monday when miners belonging to the AMCU union prevented hundreds of others from leaving after their night shift ended at the Modder East mine, located in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

Hericourt reported that there were 562 mineworkers underground, with an estimated 110 to 120 of them being AMCU supporters. He also mentioned the presence of various tools and mining equipment, including hammers, picks, shovels, that could potentially be used as weapons.

According to the South African Police Services, the mineworkers have been underground since the start of their night shift late on Sunday. Mine officials are engaged in discussions with union representatives to resolve the matter, while police are on standby. Despite attempts to establish contact with those underground through mine telephones and two-way radios, there has been no success so far.

Hericourt disclosed that there was initial contact with the alleged hostage-takers on Monday. One miner had suffered a serious head injury during scuffles. The mine dispatched a paramedic and a security officer to bring him to the surface after reaching an agreement, but both individuals were also taken hostage.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the sole recognized union at the mine, reported that its members are being held against their will. NUM representative Mlulameli Mweli called for the intervention of South African law enforcement agencies to go underground and apprehend the individuals responsible. He noted that female mine employees were also among those trapped.

Hericourt attributed the situation to members of AMCU, asserting that they are demanding to be the exclusive union representing the miners at Modder East, which is owned by the Gold One Group.

AMCU contradicted Hericourt’s account of events, contending that miners engaged in a sit-in protest in support of the union.

The rivalry between the NUM and AMCU unions was partially responsible for a tragic mining incident in 2012, when 34 striking mineworkers were shot and killed by police at a platinum mine in Marikana, in South Africa’s North West province. In the days leading up to the incident, six other mineworkers and two security officials were also killed, marking one of the most devastating mass shootings by police in South Africa since the end of apartheid.

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