JOHANNESBURG, May 24 (Reuters) – Miner Lonmin (LMI.L: Quote) (LONJ.J: Quote), the world’s third-largest platinum producer, has begun dismissing 9,000 workers at its Marikana operation in South Africa after a union dispute prompted unsanctioned walk-offs.
Lonmin said the “unprotected industrial action” has disrupted output at the platinum operations in Limpopo province since the night shift of May 17.
It did not detail the potential impact on production or the amount of time it would take to employ another 9,000 miners and resume full capacity output, though it said recruitment would start as soon as the dismissal process was complete.
The wildcat strikes are linked to a union leadership dispute, the company said, after the regional National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) office suspended leadership of the Karee branch. Miners walked off in protest.
Lonmin had said on Monday that employees were notified in writing that their activity was “unprotected”, meaning it is not legally sanctioned and is seen as a breach of contract.
It also said it had a court order compelling employees to return to work immediately.
Lonmin’s Karee operations, part of Marikana, employ 9,000 people and produce 17,000 tonnes a day. A spokeswoman said only a “handful” of workers would not be affected.
“Once the process of dismissal is complete, Lonmin will commence a recruitment programme,” it said in Tuesday’s statement.
Union leaders said they hoped for an amicable settlement with Lonmin.
“With the high unemployment rate in South Africa we wouldn’t want to see anyone losing their job. We will engage with the company and we hope that they will reemploy some of the workers,” said Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers.