Kayelekera Uranium Project, Malawi’s largest mine operated by the Australian company Paladin Africa Limited, retrenched 110 national employees last month.
Yesterday, a group of the ex-miners stormed the mine, according to Nyasa Times. They were at the mine to complain about the “raw deal”, including “tax over-deductions, being denied transport to their respective homes and also loan deduction” from their “total dues”.
Paladin’s top management were out of the country, attending the 19th Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.
Paladin has said that it has followed Malawian Labour Law in laying off the national and expatriate workers. In addition, according to a press statement from the 24 January 2013, Paladin has also engaged the services of a Malawian company which specializes in providing advice and counselling to affected employees.
Secretary General for Malawi Congress Trade Union (MCTU), Pontius Kalichero, reiterated the importance of paying retrenched staff “a fair package according to the Employment Act so that they are fairly sent home.”
According to the online news article,
Kayerekera management failed to contain the force they used to break past the security gates to the administration block.
The ex-miners are well organized and they hired a lorry from Karonga and travelled 55 kms to the mine site.
Members of staff at the mine were told not to come out of their offices nor peep through windows. Some Human Resources staff locked themselves in offices in fear of the ex-miners.
Despite record production and sales in the last quarter, ending 31 December 2012, the world market price of uranium has remained low and the company continues to operate at a loss, according to Greg Walker, International Affairs General Manager.
Besides retrenchment, the company is seeking further cost reduction measures, including nano-filtration that will ensure more efficient use of acid in production and switching over from the costly on-site diesel generators to the national electricity grid. These two projects, to reduce costs by USD 5-8 per pound of uranium oxide, are likely to be completed by late 2013, at the earliest.