Paladin Energy (PDN-T, PDN-A) says worker unrest at its Kayelekera uranium project in Malawi hasn’t slowed construction and it expects commissioning by the end of April as scheduled.
The company says roughly 250 of its 1,600-person construction workforce began protesting two days after three workers were critically injured on the job, two of whom later died in hospital.
“They protested not over working conditions or safety issues, but simply because they want to keep their jobs,” says Greg Taylor, a spokesman for Paladin.
With construction winding down, Paladin is having to trim its workforce to roughly 300 — the number of employees it will need during operations.
While the company says it explained to locals that construction jobs were only temporary, in a country with no significant mining history, some are finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that many jobs won’t be there in a month’s time.
Police were called in to disperse protesters, but only as a precautionary measure, the company says, and it has since been in negotiations with the workers.
Taylor says the company has been able to keep construction on pace, despite the fact that the protesters have not gone back to work, because it had extra staff on hand.
“We were giving workers that weren’t truly needed extra jobs to make the transition easier,” Taylor explains. “So the protests are not interfering with construction.”
As for the accident in which three construction contract workers were injured, the company describes it as a flash vapor fire that occurred when solvent cleaning fluid used in a steel tank was ignited.
An investigation into the exact cause of the ignition is under way.
On March 20, Paladin announced that one of the workers had died of his injuries in a South African hospital. The company announced the death of a second man on April 6.
The men had been transferred out of Malawi to South Africa on March 17, a day after the incident.
Paladin did not release the names of the deceased, saying only that they were 20 and 29 years old. The other man, 36, remains in a stable but critical condition.
Paladin has an 85% stake in the Kayelekera project, with the government holding the rest.
Kayelekera hosts measured resources of 2.2 million tonnes grading 0.12% U3O8; 13.1 million indicated tonnes of 0.08% U3O8; and 3.4 million inferred tonnes grading 0.06% U3O8.
At presstime, Paladin shares were trading at $3.04 in a 52-week window of $1.30-6.64. The company has 623 million shares outstanding.