South Africa's Sibanye says operations resume at strike-hit Cooke mine

Reuters , Friday 30 Jun 2017

South African precious metals producer Sibanye Gold said on Friday it had resumed production at its strike-hit Cooke mine which has been incurring losses amid illegal mining and production interruptions.

Sibanye said 160 million rand ($12.24 million) in revenue had been lost at the Cooke operations after workers downed tools more than three weeks ago over resentment at the company's crackdown against illegal miners, which has included the arrest of employees for collusion and a ban on taking food underground.

Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades, with bullion pilfered from both disused and operating mines. Sibanye has vowed to clear all illegal miners from its shafts by January 2018.

"The additional losses incurred, due to this strike, further impact on the economic viability of these operations," said Wayne Robinson, CEO of Sibanye’s gold division, in a statement

The mine, west of Johannesburg, was closed as the company went through an appeals process for workers fired for taking part in a wildcat strike.

The Cooke operations, which have been under strategic review, were impacted by the loss of around 300 kilograms of planned gold production, the company said.

"These operations have failed to meet production targets for some time, with illegal mining and employee collusion likely to have played a meaningful role in this underperformance," said Robinson.

Sibanye has laid out 200 million rand to stop illegal mining, which is estimated to costs South Africa's government and industry more than 20 billion rand a year in lost sales, taxes and royalties.

"The arrest of 472 illegal miners at the Cooke operations, which are not dormant, but active, operating mines, indicates the extent of the illegal mining activities and the risks that this growing criminal activity poses to our operations, employees and communities," said Robinson.

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