Uncertainty grips 150 Zimplats workers

HARARE - The future remains uncertain for 150 mine workers at Zimplats following the permanent closure of Bimha Mine last week.

Zimplats, which is 87 percent-owned by South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats), last week announced that it has ceased operations at its Bimha Mine following an underground collapse in July.

The stoppage of work at the biggest of the four mines run by Zimplats is expected to cost the company nearly $100 million from the loss of 70 000 ounces in 2015.

Although Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer had initially absorbed all the 150 affected workers into other mines while the collapsed mine was being investigated for a possible re-
opening, the latest development has sent employees into panic.

“We don’t know whether our jobs are still secure. But from the rumours doing rounds here it seems we could be retrenched by December this year,” said an employee who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.

Busi Chindove, the Zimplats spokesperson said she could not comment on the future of the workers.

“There is still a lot of investigative work taking place so we may not be able to answer all your questions,” she said in e-mailed responses.

Zimplats, which is listed on the Australia Stock Exchange, employs close to 6 000 workers both on permanent and contract basis.

The platinum producer last month drew rare praise from government for the way it handled the collapse of a fault known as the Mutambara shear.

The fault weaves its way in a rolling horizontal sheet through a major part of the workings at Bimha, located kilometres southeast of the capital, Harare.

On the map the shear zone looks like a giant manta ray lying on the deposit, straddling a large mined-out area as well as a sizeable portion of the twin-decline access and ore- hauling tunnels that descend from the surface into the depths of the mine.

The area that collapsed is roughly in the centre of that zone and largely covers mined-out areas either side of the declines.

The platinum mining giant withdrew about 150 people and their machines from the mine weeks ahead of the collapse.

It shut down a decline tunnel and the worked-out areas in the deeper portion of the mine, without anyone being injured or equipment being lost.

Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa in July congratulated Zimplats management and shareholders for expertly managing the potentially catastrophic incident at the Bimha Mine without any
loss of life or injuries.

“When a major mining disaster strikes and several lives are lost, the world jumps and condemns, However, when a major mining incident strikes and no lives are lost or injuries incurred as has happened at Zimplats, the world does not take notice,” said Chidhakwa.

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