By: Hertha Ekandjo
The B2Gold mine director Leake Hangala said that out of the 200 employees of the mine who were last week suspended after refusing to work over their normal eight-hour without compensation, seven who were regarded as the ring leaders would not be returning to work after refusing to admit to their wrongdoing.
Hangala said this on Tuesday during a press briefing session in Windhoek.
“The Otjikoto mine is back to its full operation and the suspensions have been lifted with warnings and only a few would lose their jobs and not more than seven,” he said.
The director stated that during the suspension of the workers the company recruited a few workers to work temporarily just to keep the mine’s production going.
According to him, during the suspension, the company made no losses.
Hangala said that B2Gold has always been a consistent company that avoided mistakes by any means and that unions were the ones to make sure that such mistakes don’t repeat themselves.
“We as a company never made mistakes, we talked to the people and we have been transparent in every way,” emphasised Hangala.
According to Hangala, the Otjikoto mine is Namibia’s largest gold mine, which came into production in December 2014 and successfully transitioned to commercial production, with underground mine development and expansion currently underway.
He added that Otjikoto reached its highest level of gold production in 2021 since its inception, producing 197,573 ounces of gold.
“B2Gold Corp., B2Gold Namibia’s 90 shareholders, is committed to local employment as outlined in its People Management Policy and guided by its Local Content Performance Standard, which promotes strategies to enhance employment directly from the regions in which B2Gold Corp operates,” Hangala explained.
Moreover, he said that since the end of 2021, B2Gold Namibia had a total of 871 permanent employees and 51 temporary employees, with 98.6 percent of B2Gold Namibia’s total workforce being Namibian.
Last year B2Gold Namibia paid a Corporate Tax of N$615.1 million.
Royalties paid to the government stood at N$152.5 million, export levies: N$50 million, dividends paid to shareholders: N$1.1 billion, total procurement spend: N$2.274 billion,
local procurements spend N$2.023 billion, CSI Expenditure N$21.3 million, and expenditure on training & skills development N$9.6 million.
Hangala explained that B2Gold Namibia’s Community Social Investment Strategy focused on health, education, culture, the environment, and small business development.
“Investment is carried out within the Otjikoto mine’s impact communities, in the capital city of Windhoek, and other vulnerable communities throughout Namibia. The total expenditure on Corporate Social Investment in 2021 was N$21.3 million,” he said.
Furthermore, Hangala mentioned that on 11 October, the labour ministry, B2Gold, and the mine worker’s union had a tripartite meeting to discuss the work stoppage that occurred at the Otjikoto mine and subsequent suspensions of the affected employees.
“During the meeting, the ministry confirmed that the Continuous Operation permit (CONTOPS) is valid and that the company should consider lifting the suspensions and impose a different sanction. The company agreed to discuss the matter further with the MUN on 12 October 2022,” he stated.
According to him, during the meeting between the company and the union, they acknowledged that their members should have followed the internal grievance and dispute mechanisms available to them before embarking on an unsanctioned work stoppage.
He noted that the union apologized for the behavior of its members and further requested that the company reconsiders the lifting of the suspensions.
“An amicable solution was reached, and the company agreed to lift the suspensions and allow the employees to return to work with a warning. The employees started returning for duty on the morning of 14 October 2022, and the Otjikoto mine is back in full production. While the illegal strike was on, the Otjikoto mine continued its operations”.