“Minister Ramatlhodi reminds mine right holders of the importance to comply with all legal prescripts pertaining to the management of downscaling that may lead to job losses,” the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) said in a statement referring to the Minerals & Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
The minister’s statement comes on the day the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it would “declare war” in retrenchments on the sector, and picked out Glencore for rejecting its efforts to save jobs at the Optimum Colliery in Mpumalanga province.
The NUM’s comments – in which it said Glencore had no interest in contributing to the lives of its workers – drew a rebuke from the Swiss-headquartered group which replied that it had “exhausted every effort” to save jobs at the colliery.
Glencore announced in January it intended to cut five million tonnes in South African export coal owing to the decline in the price for the fuel which had rendered Optimum Colliery unprofitable – a development that could see just over 1,000 jobs lost.
Since that announcement, Harmony Gold said it may have to restructure its Doornkop mine which employs about 3,700 people.
According to the NUM “… the whole industry has retrenched between 5,000 to 10,000 jobs” since the start of 2015. It added that “… approximately 30 companies have issued us with Section 189 notifications, with a minimum of between 15,000 to 20,000 jobs to be lost as per companies calculation”.
It is estimated that roughly 35,000 jobs have been lost in the mining sector since 2012, predominantly from the gold and platinum sectors.
In the DMR’s statement, Ramatlhodi said that the platinum and coal committee was investigating the sustainability of the two sectors and that a special task committee had been formed to assess the situation of jobs and provide advice to the Mining Industry Growth and Development Task Team (MIGDETT).
Said the DMR: “On the broader management of downscaling, Minister Ramatlhodi has indicated that all mining companies are expected to have Social and Labour Plans which should encompass the Creation of Future Fora”.
These ‘fora’ were intended to “create dialogues” between unions and mining companies in the mineral resources sector on the future trajectories of the mining activities.
Ramatlhodi noted that the mining sector had reported year-on-year first quarter growth of 10.2% and that he: “… welcomes this phenomenon as confirmation of the resilience of the industry”.
The heightened focus on retrenchments has been precipitated by difficult trading conditions in the mining sector, but it also has wage negotiations in the gold and coal sectors for a backdrop.
The Chamber of Mines said in May that owing to “difficult times” the industry had been forced to consider restructuring.
“The trying conditions call for a high level of pragmatism during wage negotiations to realise a mutually acceptable outcome that protects the viability of the industry and the long-term sustainability of the industry and jobs,” said Mike Teke, president of the chamber.