SOUTH African mines minister Gwede Mantashe threatened to withdraw Sibanye-Stillwater’s mining licence for its gold operations because it was not willing to mine the mineral any more, according to a report by BusinessLive.
Commenting on a strike at the firm’s gold mining operations, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO, Neal Froneman told Miningmx that his company was not under pressure to conclude a deal with unions at its gold mines as it could survive a strike “for years and years”.
He added that: “But that’s not what we are trying to do. We are extremely concerned about the fact our employees are not receiving their pay”.
In concluding remarks after the debate on the mineral resources and energy budget vote in Parliament on Thursday, Mantashe said: “The message he is sending to us is that he is not ready to actually mine gold. He has enough money to fight a strike and stop production for years and years”.
“And that actually sends us a message that says the department, relevant officials look into the possibility of the application of section 47. A mine that does not want to mine but sit on the properties … so that we can give that property to companies that want to mine gold.”
In terms of section 47 of the Mineral & Petroleum Resources Development Act, the mineral rights holder is required to actively conduct mining, while section 47 empowers the minister to suspend or cancel a mining right if the holder fails to fulfil its obligations in terms of the right, among other things, said BusinessLive.
The National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union started a strike at Driefontein, Kloof and Beatrix about 10 weeks ago after failing to agree a new three-year wage agreement. Unions are demanding a R1,150 per month increase for entry-level miners whereas Sibanye-Stillwater has offered R850/month – an position it says is its last.
James Wellstead, vice-president of corporate affairs for Sibanye-Stillwater, told BusinessLive that the fact it was in a labour dispute with unions indicated it wanted to continue mining.
“What we are trying to do is to preserve the sustainability of our operations and preserve jobs. What the unions are demanding is going to result in the early closure of those operations, which will mean early job losses, which will impact on other stakeholders that rely on the operations, like communities and small and medium enterprises, and will impact the national and regional economies as well,” Wellsted said.
“The reason we are holding out is that the industry cannot continue to absorb above-inflation costs.”