Gold miner smuggles in workers by night to bypass strikers

Gold Fields Ltd. is having to sneak maintenance teams into its South Deep mine in South Africa after protesters shot at vehicles trying to enter the site, where workers have been on strike since Nov. 2.

Small teams of essential workers are using secret entrances to enter the mine and sometimes have to be smuggled in during the night to pump water, monitor equipment and undertake general maintenance work, said company spokesman Sven Lunsche.

Protesters fired live ammunition at vehicles trying to enter South Deep and petrol bombs were recovered at one of the shaft entrances, the company said on its website.

“We are using back routes, sometimes essential teams have to enter in the middle of the night,” Lunsche said. “We have to do it in a secretive way, using different entrances and changing routes all the time to avoid the striking workers.”

Workers embarked on a strike at Gold Fields’ last remaining operation in South Africa. They’re protesting the company’s plans to cut more than 1,500 jobs to turn around the unprofitable mine, which sits on the world’s second-biggest known body of gold-bearing ore.

Kanetso Matabane, a branch chairman for National Union of Mineworkers, which represents about 80 percent of the employees at the mine, said workers weren’t responsible for the violence. The union’s members will press on with the strike until an agreement on job cuts is reached, he said.