1,700 protest at Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu mine

On Thursday Harmony Gold Mining Company announced that it would be closing its Kusasalethu mine earlier than anticipated as violent demonstrations followed after the suspension of 578 workers.

In that same release Tom Smith, CEO of Harmony, stated that, “No violence will be tolerated.”  To which 1,700 workers took to heart as early on Friday the company posted a release explaining that underground mineworkers had refused to return to the surface.

The underground miners, led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, demanded that those suspended, for participating in strike action last week, be reinstated.

According to The Citizen, a company spokeswoman said the protesters damaged some surface equipment on Thursday morning and fired gunshots at security guards, who returned fire with rubber bullets. Five workers were injured in the process.

Spokeswomen Henrika Basterfield said, according to BusinessReport, “After several discussions between the relevant parties, the 1,700 mineworkers who participated in a sit-in at Kusasalethu mine returned to surface.”

The mine will be closed for the ‘festive’ season and, according to Harmony, labour discussion will not resume until January 2013.

The Kusasalethu mine accounted for about 14% of the firm's total gold output with production reaching 181,105 troy ounces of gold during the financial year ending June 30, 2012.