Pretoria – Production at the Palabora Mining Company in Limpopo came to a halt at the weekend when community members protested violently outside the premises.
From Friday to yesterday, protesters – who burnt the reception area of the mine – demanded jobs and contract work at the mine after a Gauteng firm was contracted for a multimillion-rand deal to specialise in explosives and drilling.
The Gauteng firm Ukwazi UMM was brought in by Palabora, one of the biggest copper mining companies in the country, to replace Umvusuluso whose contract expired recently.
However, the new firm brought in its own staff of about 200 employees from Gauteng, said Baphalaborwa Community Forum secretary Given Resinga.
He said: “This company cannot be allowed to bring in as many as 200 workers to come work our land while there are hundreds of us who are unemployed in Phalaborwa townships.”
He said Palabora was standing in the way of the forum’s leadership to meet with the new company to discuss a way forward.
“All we want is to meet with the company and hear from them why they are not prioritising our community members. Even some of the community members are starting to get irritated at us because they feel we are not doing enough to secure meetings with these guys.”
Palabora spokesperson Abbey Ledwaba said the matter was still at its conceptual stages, and nothing had been finalised yet. But he confirmed that the company had brought some of its skilled workers to work the land.
“Palabora and UMM are still discussing strategies as to how to go on from here. It’s true that they have brought some employees, but it’s because they are skilled people.
“But production had to come to a stop. We have still not started with work as we speak. We are having meetings with the community to see if we can reach an agreement,” he said.
He confirmed that the protesters had damaged property worth about R5 million in the reception area.