Strike ends at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine

Workers at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine returned to surface last night after an illegal sit-in of nearly 48 hours, the South African bullion miner said Friday.

Close to About 1,700 miners brought production at Kusasalethu to a standstill on Wednesday, demanding a special bonus, the removal of the general manager and guarantees that disciplinary action would not be pursued.

Harmony has decided to stop mining at Kusasalethu in five years, which effectively shortens the life of the mine by 20 years.

The company, South Africa’s third-largest gold miner, said it would launch an independent investigation to establish why the illegal sit-in happened in the first place.

Harmony announced last year that it would cut the mine life to five years from 24 due to high operational costs and falling grades. Kusasalethu, located about 90 kilometres from Johannesburg, currently employs about 4,500 people.

After losing money for three years to 2015, Harmony is now focused on finding mines able to offset falling production at its South African operations. As part of those plans, the company expects to build a $2.6 billion gold-copper mine Papua New Guinea.

That project, known as Golpu, will add about 500,000 ounces, or about 45%, to Harmony's annual production.

Late last year, Harmony — which is also the world's fifth largest gold producer —  became the sole owner of the Hidden Valley mine in Papua New Guinea after partner Australia’s Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) agreed to sell its 50% stake in the joint venture to Harmony.