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Amplats Plan to Fire Workers Not Helpful, Finance Minister Says

Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s plan to idle shafts and fire as many as 14,000 workers is “less than helpful,” South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said.

The mining industry faces major challenges, Gordhan said today in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, where he’s attending the World Economic Forum. “Before making public announcements, it is important to engage with the government.”

The platinum group known as Amplats has come under attack from government and labor union officials since it laid out the plans to scale back operations earlier this month. Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the African National Congress, yesterday accused the company’s London-based parent, Anglo American Plc, of theft.

Pranill Ramchander, a Johannesburg-based spokesman for Anglo American, declined to comment on Gordhan’s remarks and referred to a Jan. 18 statement in which the company said it was in talks with the Department of Mineral Resources.

“Government is very committed to sitting around the table and planning the short-term response for challenges and creating a long term platform for the mining industry,” Gordhan said.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union wants Mines Minister Susan Shabangu to “reissue” mining permits that aren’t being used by companies such as Amplats, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters Jan. 17.

The AMCU represents 26,000 workers at Amplats’ operations, Mathunjwa said. The company had 51,200 employees in 2011, according to the most recent annual report on its website.

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