Processing Boosted at Ailing Agnes Gold Mine
Metallon Gold, the gold company owned by businessman Mzi Khumalo, is upgrading the processing facility at its Agnes mine near Barberton to help turn around the financially troubled mine.
Management had started engaging the unions to retrench some of the workforce, Metallon Gold chief financial officer Kwaku Akosah-Bempah said on Friday. He said that the mine was not for sale, though anything was for sale at the right price.
Last September, workers demonstrated at the mine over a shortfall in pay as the mine experienced financial difficulties. They had been put on leave in August but complained they had not been paid in full for September.
Akosah-Bempah said it took time to turn around a mine, but management believed that a key issue to was to change the processing facilities. At the same time, use of underground facilities had been suspended. Underground mining would resume, but at a lower level, which would necessitate laying off staff. Asked about the extent of retrenchments, he said he would prefer to consult first with the National Union of Mineworkers before making figures public.
Honest Serothwane, union regional organiser for the area, confirmed that the company had filed documents with the Labour Court, though he had not yet had time to study them and could not provide details of the contemplated retrenchments. He said about 300 people had been employed at the Agnes mine originally, but some had left voluntarily.
The Agnes mine is one of the oldest in South Africa. It was formerly owned by Anglovaal Mining, which sold it to Cluff Resources in 1999. Cluff Resources sold the mine to Metallon Gold in 2002. The mine contains the Galaxy ore body, a substantial deposit of gold in pyrites, which gives very low recoveries using conventional carbon-in-leach processing technology and has to be supplemented with bacterial processing.
Akosah-Bempah said plans were still under way to list Metallon Gold on London’s Alternative Investment Market. Pressed for a date, he said it could be in the first half of this year.