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Traffic chaos as trucks block national roads

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A resolution to the dispute is still to be announced with a meeting of the various role-players still under way at the time of going to press

Source: IOL

A LABOUR dispute in the mining sector resulted in major traffic disruptions in the Northern Cape yesterday as over a hundred trucks barricaded two national roads near Hotazel.

While police managed to contain the situation, without any major incidents being reported, a resolution to the dispute is still to be announced with a meeting of the various role-players still under way at the time of going to press.

The drivers, who transport manganese from the United Manganese of Kalahari mine to Cape Town and Durban, have several demands, including a salary increase to R10 000 per month and travel allowances.

SAPS provincial spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, confirmed the protest action but added that the situation was calm and roads were reopened before noon yesterday.

Kock said that a meeting between the various role-players involved in the dispute was still under way late yesterday afternoon.

“Police were called to the scene at about 3am on Tuesday to find that two of the main roads outside Hotazel had been closed by over 100 mine trucks,” he explained. “The SAPS Public Order Policing unit as well as Kuruman SAPS were on the scene and managed to open the roads at about 11.30am.

“No injuries or serious incidents were reported to the police. However, the situation is being monitored.”

Meanwhile, the Northern Cape Department of Transport welcomed the police intervention and called for an amicable resolution to the dispute.

“The department has been informed that mine workers in the Hotazel area have blockaded the roads in the area in demand of wage increments amongst other concerns,” said the spokesperson for for the provincial Department of Transport, Keitumetse Moticoe. “The roads have been open to traffic since this morning through the intervention of the SAPS.

“The situation has been calm and we kindly request that the negotiations remain peaceful and that a satisfying outcome, for all involved, be reached.”

Last week, Transnet and Tshipi e Ntle reached an agreement for the export of 2.1 million tons of manganese per annum, for the next seven and a half years.

Tshipi e Ntle is the second manganese producer to take up a long-term take-or-pay contract with Transnet.

Last month, South32, a global resource company, signed a similar contract with the logistic and utility group.

After reaching the agreement, Transnet’s chief new business development officer, Gert De Beer, said in a statement that the signing of the second manganese contract was an indication of the public entity’s intent to secure export volumes for the mining industry and general freight companies.

“We are working hard to finalise the outstanding manganese contracts with the rest of the targeted manganese producers,” he said on Friday, adding that a total of nine contracts were due to be signed resulting in the annual transportation 12.5 million tons of manganese from the Kalahari manganese fields of the Northern Cape through the Saldanha and Port Elizabeth ore railway line to the port of destination.

Commenting on the signing of the agreement, Tshipi e Ntle chief executive officer, Ezekiel Lotlhare, said that this contract was testament to Tshipi’s strong relationship with Transnet and demonstrated the mine’s exceptional growth since its inception six years ago.

“In a very short time, Tshipi has grown from exporting one million tons in its first year of operation to becoming the largest exporter of manganese in South Africa.

“During those six years, Tshipi recorded an exceptional historical performance, one that we are confident will continue.

“We have a world-class asset, a good position on the global cost curve, state-of-the-art equipment, including the fastest load-out station in the Kalahari Manganese Basin, and a unique rail siding that can accommodate longer and heavier trains than its competitors.”

Neither Transnet nor Tshipi e Ntle responded to media enquiries regarding the barricaded roads by the trucks by the time of going to press yesterday.