JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s largest platinum mining companies this week warned of potential job losses, while 400 workers were sacked at a chrome mine and at least one mining contractor confirmed that it would retrench 860 workers.
The warning of potential job losses in a country with a 25.5% unemployment rate comes as the latest Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed a loss of 8 000 jobs in the mining industry during the three months ended September.
Considering that many of the mining companies hit by industrial action only started dismissals in the past month, it was likely that the full impact of the dismissals related to the wildcat strikes would only be seen in the fourth-quarter report.
There was also potential for more job losses arising from possible downsizing at several platinum operations.
Gold and platinum mining companies in recent weeks threatened mass dismissals, offered moderate wage increases and promised once-off bonuses, many in the range of R2 000, to coax workers back to work.
But while the gold mining companies and some platinum producers are ramping up production, the country’s biggest platinum miner, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), is still struggling to get its workers to return.
Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said on Thursday that the platinum industry was in “severe financial distress” and that high wage settlements to get wildcat strikers back to work could lead to job cuts.
“This is completely the wrong time to be offering unsustainable wage increases,” he said in a radio interview, adding that it could lead more job losses.
Workers continued to strike at Amplats’ Rustenburg, Union and Amandelbult mining operations, despite its offer to reinstate 12 000 dismissed employees and a R2 000 incentive to return.
The platinum giant is losing an average of 3 694 oz of platinum a day and has, to date, lost 141 640 oz owing to the wildcat strike, which started seven weeks ago.
Lonmin also gave unions notice of potential restructuring, with any downsizing of its 25 000-strong workforce to be implemented in early 2013.
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