South Africa-based Sibanye Gold is planning to close Cooke 4 mine and Ezulwini gold and uranium processing plant due to continued operational underperformance and financial losses.

The company said it will enter into a further consultation process with organised labour and other relevant stakeholders regarding the closure.

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Sibanye acquired the Cooke underground and surface assets from Gold One in May 2014 as the uranium and gold mineral resources and reserves that are present in the Cooke surface tailings facilities form a critical component of the company’s West Rand Tailings Retreatment Project (WRTRP).

Four operating underground mines and two processing plants, which are part of the Cooke 4 assets were also acquired.

The company entered into a period of consultation with relevant stakeholders in September 2014 due to historical operational underperformance.

Later in November 2014, the stakeholders agreed to implement specific measures to return the operation to profitability.

The Cooke 4 operations have continued to fall short of production targets and accumulated losses despite monitoring and interventions by a joint management and labour committee.

"It is unfortunate that, despite the joint efforts of stakeholders, the Cooke 4 Operations have been unable to meet required production and cost targets."

Sibanye has given notice in terms of Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA) considering the sustained losses at the operation and the efforts to improve productivity.

The company is now planning a 60-day period of consultation with trade unions and affected employees.

Sibanye gold division CEO Wayne Robinson said: “It is unfortunate that, despite the joint efforts of stakeholders, the Cooke 4 Operations have been unable to meet required production and cost targets and has continued to operate at a loss.

“We remain positive about the future of the Cooke 1, 2 and 3 mines and the outlook for the WRTRP project is extremely promising.”

Image: Sibanye Gold’s Cooke 3 plant. Photo: courtesy of Sibanye Gold Limited.