Mineworkers face bleak future – Anglo Gold to retrench up to 8500 workers

 June 30, 2017. Anglo Gold Ashanti will close down its mine in Orkney, North West, resulting in  ore than 8 500 mineworkers losing their jobs. Photo Thulani Mbele. © Sowetan

The second retrenchment from his job as a mine worker will come as a blow to Vuyisani Lengisi, a breadwinner for his six children and extended family.

Lengisi, a rock drill operator at Kopanang Mine in Orkney, is one of the 8500 Anglo Gold Ashanti mineworkers facing job losses after the company issued workers with notices of intent to retrench them.

Kopanang and TauTona mines are two of the operations Anglo Gold Ashanti wants to place on care and maintenance after “a period of significant and, ultimately, unsustainable losses”.

As Lengisi prepared to join the unemployed ranks and a possible return to his home in Eastern Cape, he spoke of lost hope in the mining industry.

He told Sowetan this would be the second time in his life as a mineworker that he would be retrenched.

His first mining job loss came when President Steyn Gold Mine in Welkom, Free State, was closed down.

“It will be the second time I am a victim of such a process. It is disappointing to see a mine with gold reserves closing down its shafts.

“It is very painful to face retrenchment because I’m still young,” said Lengisi, 35, who has been working for the mine for 10 years.

“I no longer have any interest to work in the mining industry because after every two or three years you will be told that there is a financial crisis and the mine will be shut down soon. We are unable to perform our duties freely due to the perpetual threat to our jobs,” he said.

Lengisi said he was considering using his retrenchment benefits to start a small business back home. He feared, however, that his family would be negatively impacted by his latest retrenchment.

“I am the only person who is working at home,” he said .

Another employee facing the prospect of retrenchment is Tladi Phakisi, 50, a winch operator who has been working in the mining industry for 28 years. Phakisi has worked for Anglo Gold Ashanti for 18 years.

With two of his four children studying at tertiary level, Phakisi has spent sleepless nights thinking about where their tuition fees will come from if he is retrenched.

“The retrenchment news is saddening because I have two children who are in college studying engineering and business management and they depend on me for tuition, said Phakisi.

“My last born is doing Grade 12 and another is also unemployed. I’m the only one who is feeding and clothing them.”

Peter Baas, who works at the mine as a development team member, was equally frustrated and depressed about the prospect of job loss.

“It is frustrating and demoralising to face retrenchment because you can never know what the future holds without a job, especially when you have to look after your children and extended family members,” said Baas.

“In addition to my children, my mother, father, three brothers and a sister who are not working, all depend on me.”

By Mpho Sibanyoni

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