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JOHANNESBURG, June 26 (Reuters) - South African precious metals producer Sibanye Gold aims to resume production at its strike-hit Cooke Mine later this week, but first plans to conduct safety inspections in the shafts on Monday.
A company spokesman also said the company needed to wrap up an appeals process for around 1,500 miners who face possible dismissal for taking part in a violent wildcat strike that started almost three weeks ago in protest against a company drive to root out illegal miners.
Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades, with bullion pilfered from both disused and operating mines, and Sibanye has vowed it will clear all illegal miners from its shafts by January 2018.
“We hope to have the appeals process done by the middle of the week and then we can resume production later this week,” company spokesman James Wellsted said.
Workers at the mine downed tools over resentment at the company crackdown against illegal miners, which has included the arrest of employees for collusion and a ban on taking food underground.
Underscoring the scale of the problem, 461 illegal miners have been arrested at Cooke since the stoppage began.
They have been forced to come to the surface because of the strike, which has emptied the shafts of employees, thereby starving them of their sources of food and water underground - an unintended consequence of the strike.
Located about 60 kms (35 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, the Cooke mine produces about 181,700 ounces of gold a year and brings in around 377 million rand ($29 million) in operating profit, or just over 6 percent of the group’s total. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Mark Potter)