Langer Heinrich layoffs a worry

30 April 2018 | Business

The Langer Heinrich uranium mine's pending retrenchments have been described as unfortunate by the Mineworkers Union of Namibia.

The Langer Heinrich mine will be mothballed and hundreds of employees will be sent home. Only about 20 employees will stay on to perform maintenance.

The mineworkers' union's secretary, Desley Somseb, said: “This is not the first retrenchment at the Langer Heinrich mine. In the past about 300 employees were retrenched. The situation is bad and the guys in the uranium sector are affected by the price of uranium.”

The MUN would travel to the coast this week to assess the situation on the ground, Somseb said.

MUN branch chairman Paulus Iipumbu said the announcement “came as quite a surprise”.

“We suspected something like this for some time but were repeatedly told by management that it was not the case,” Iipumbu was quoted as saying. According to Iipumbu, he wrote to the company to ask about the possibility of such a development so that a proper retrenchment agreement could be drafted early enough to benefit those affected.

The mine's interim managing director, Michael Itrona, last week announced that the mine would be placed in care and maintenance.

“There will be retrenchments for a large number of employees as only a small multifunctional staff pool of about 20 people will stay on. Care and maintenance will take a while to be fully implemented and retrenchment arrangements will be discussed with employees. It is deeply distressing to have to consider suspending operations at the mine,” Itrona said. According to him, care and maintenance is the only real, responsible option at this stage.

The Chamber of Mines of Namibia would not comment when approached. The Langer Heinrich mine made a loss of N$876.7 million in 2017. According to the Chamber of Mines annual report, the Langer Heinrich mine employed 296 permanent and 49 temporary employees, while 279 contractors provided services to the mine last year.