Wesizwe Platinum to cut jobs at “bloated” Bakubung mine

THE jobs bloodbath in South Africa’s platinum group metal (PGM) sector worsened on Monday after Wesizwe Platinum said it planned to restructure its “bloated” Bakubung mine in North West province.

It said up to 571 employees of its total 761 staff complement could be affected by a restructuring in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. A decline in PGM prices was among the reasons for the restructuring.

A switch in mining method at the Bakubung as well as the effects of two strikes in each of 2022 and 2023, and a third unprotected, five-week stoppage had compounded the mine’s problems. Staff from all levels and throughout the business would be affected, it said. Wesizwe is 45% controlled by China Africa Jinchuan Ltd.

In an announcement to the JSE, Wesizwe said there “simply does not appear to be any alternatives” to restructuring as the mine was lossmaking, and owing to a need to “ensure that Bakubung is placed on a path of profitability and growth”.

“As things stand Bakubung has already stopped overtime and weekend work, did not renew contracts of mining contract services and fixed-term contracts of non-critical staff and placed a moratorium on recruitment of non-core and critical staff with the aim of reducing the bloated structure that causes inefficiencies,” it said.

Bloomberg News said on November 24 that Anglo American was considering cutting staff at Anglo American Platinum owing to poor PGM prices.

On October 25, Sibanye-Stillwater announced restructuring plans affecting 4,095 full time employees and contractors at its PGM mines. Four shafts are affected: at Kroondal (Simunye shaft), two at Marikana (Rowland and 4 Belt shafts) and one shaft at its Rustenburg section (Siphumelele).

Earlier this month, Impala Platinum said it was offering voluntary job cuts to workers at some of its shafts in South Africa.

“We are obviously doing everything to reduce costs,” Johan Theron, spokesperson for Implats told Reuters. “Labour is a big cost component so you always start with labour by offering voluntary separation packages,” he said. The PGM miner started with head office cuts in October, and is now extending them to its Rustenburg Lease shafts.

Palladium is down 37.2% in dollar terms since the beginning of the year but there have also been serious price declines in rhodium and platinum which are 344% and 13.7% down respectively so far this year.