A mining contractor has served dismissal notices to 274 employees at South African mining group Wescoal’s Vanggatfontein mine (VGF) in Mpumalanga following a disciplinary hearing related to alleged unlawful conduct by the employees.

According to Wescoal, the contractor served the dismissal notice at one of its subsidiaries following “work stoppages, strike actions and riots.”

Wescoal said that production at VGF will be suspended for six to eight weeks.

The mine is operated by Keaton Mining, which was acquired by Wescoal in July 2017, and the operations have been outsourced to a mining contractor.

In November 2018, Wescoal appointed a new mining contractor, after which 228 contract mining employees were transferred by from the previous mining contractor to the new contractor.

Wescoal said that after the transfer, employees engaged in violent action on 16 April, destroying equipment and blocking the mine’s entrance gate.

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On 17 April, the contractor secured an interdict against the mine employees from the Labour Court.

“The contractor served the dismissal notice at one of its subsidiaries following ‘work stoppages, strike actions and riots’.”

A disciplinary inquiry on 18 April found that all VGF contract mining employees under the new contractor guilty of the allegations and recommended their dismissal, subject to the dismissal appeal provisions contained in Section 191 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995.

Wescoal said that the contractor informed the company on 22 April about the dismissal notices to 274 contract mining employees, including the 228 transferred employees, and that it will begin a recruitment process to hire new employees from 23 April.

The mining company has informed VGF customers, particularly Eskom Holdings, that coal supply will be stopped during the downtime at the mine.

Wescoal said that it plans to hold discussions with Eskom to address the impact of the VGF supply shortfall to Eskom.