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Copper producer Palabora Mining Company announced that all employees who were involved in the illegal underground sit-in at the Palabora mine that began on 13 March have returned to surface, bringing the seven-day strike to an end.

The company said that these employees returned to surface at midnight on 20 March following discussions with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as well as the strikers.

According to Palabora, each employee involved in the sit-in was assessed at the local medical clinic prior to being allowed to return home to their families.

We are pleased that the striking employees came to surface without any injury whatsoever or through the use of force, said Palabora’s MD, Anthony Lennox.

The company advised that production in other divisions on the business continued safely and without interruption during this period. I am very grateful to our employees who kept all other sections of our business running during this challenging time. They carried out their tasks without any indication of difficulty and ensured that we were able to keep magnetite, copper and vermiculite supplies moving through to our customers, added Lennox.

Further, the company pointed out that during the last few days it has worked collaboratively with the Department of Mineral Resources, NUM, the South African Police Service and the Chamber of Mines to achieve this result. We would like to thank them in assisting us to achieve this peaceful outcome, said Lennox.

Palabora said in a statement that it recognised that there are differing points of views on the illegal strike and that many people were caught up in it, adding that it has discussed these matters with NUM on how to address them going forward.

The company advised that it will conduct an extensive safety inspection of the underground mine to ensure that it is restarted without incident and check that all equipment is in working order prior to a controlled start-up. Palabora said it envisaged the recommencement of normal underground operations over the course of the weekend.

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