Company takes control of Albania mine after strike

TIRANA Aug 22 (Reuters) – Austrian miner DCM DECOmetal said it had retaken control of the Bulqize mine in northern Albania after it met miners’ demands for a pay rise and police ended a miners’ hunger strike.

The company might have some difficulty in persuading miners to come back to work, however.

The hunger strike by a series of miners 1,400 metres below ground went on for 26 days before police forced them out at the weekend. They had downed tools since July 4, asking also for a clear commitment about the mine’s future.

George Bedineishvili, the manager of Albanian Chrome, or ACR, the local arm of DCM DECOmetal, said on Monday the company was in control of the mine and was working to make it safe.

“The (miners’) central demands have been met. Now we are doing some work on the mine. We need to make sure the mine is safe. After that, we hope people who are really tired of this situation will be coming to work,” Bedineishvili told Reuters.

In a letter to miners, ACR promised them a 20 percent gross wage rise and assured them it would grant other benefits. Resumption of work is proving difficult, however, because some of the miners want the contract to be signed by a union leader.

“We will not accept a solution that is not agreed and signed by (union leader) Kol Nikolla,” one miner told a national television station

Nikolla could not immediately be reached for comment.

Speaking by phone from the mine in Bulqiza, Bedineishvili said that only some 200 miners were loyal to Nikolla while 600 miners were committed to work.

“We shall start the rehabilitation work tomorrow. There will be a transitional few days. People should not be shy to show tomorrow. It is going to be a gradual process,” he added.

DCM DECOmetal, Albania’s largest employer, has been able to keep its ferrochrome smelter in Elbasan working by buying chrome from third parties, respecting contracts in Europe, the United States and China. It produces some 3,000 tonnes of ferrochrome a month.

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