Warning over jobs bloodbath in one of South Africa’s biggest sectors

 ·28 Nov 2023

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has warned that around 10,000 mining jobs may be lost over the next two months.

“[NUM] expresses its shock considering the levels of unemployment in South Africa. This is a huge blow. Our members and workers at large who are about to [lose] their jobs have nothing to celebrate this festive season,” the union said.

This comes as numerous companies in the South African platinum group metal (PGM) sector mull cutting a large number of their workforce amid massive drops in metal prices and numerous disruptions to operations.

Precious metal companies like Anglo American Platinum, Wesizwe Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Sibanye Stillwater have all said that they are looking at restructuring their business operations in response to (among other factors) the sharp metal price decline as profits seem to bleed. This year alone, the price of major PMGs like platinum and palladium dropped around 11% and 40%, respectively.

Anglo-American Platinum made headlines over the weekend when it announced that it is considering cutting the workforce at two South African units. No further details were given on the extent of the cuts, as further consultation is said to be needed.

Wesizwe Platinum (which is 45% owned by Chinese group Junchuan Group International Resources) has begun consultations where it is looking to possibly cut 571 out of the 761 jobs (75%) at the Bakubung platinum project mine in the North West province.

“There simply do not appear to be any alternatives available,” the company said.

If the group cannot continue to operate without job cuts, Wesizwe said it “would not be reasonable or viable”.

The group said it “(needs) to implement measures to improve efficiencies and to ensure that Bakubung is placed on the path of profitability and growth”. This follows various prolonged strikes at these mines by workers in 2022 and 2023.

The shock announcement resulted in their share price on the JSE falling by more than 13%.

Sibanye-Stillwater announced in October that it would be restructuring its PGM operations, affecting 4,095 full-time employees and contractors at the Kroondal (Simunye shaft), Marikana (Rowland and 4 Belt shafts) and Rustenburg (Siphumelele) mining shafts.

The company pinpointed this restructuring to electricity and water cost increases and the drop in PGM prices.

On Tuesday, ArcelorMittal confirmed that it was considering around 3,500 job cuts at its Vereeniging and Newcastle plants.

Earlier this month, Impala Platinum said that it is offering “voluntary job cuts to workers” at its Rustenburg mining complex in the North West province.

Speaking to Reuters, the group’s spokesperson Johan Theron declined to say how many jobs the company expects to cut.

However, Theron said that “we are obviously doing everything to reduce costs.”

“Labour is a big cost component, so you always start with labour by offering voluntary separation packages.”

Read: Government tells Anglo American to hold back job cuts until after elections

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