South Africa Adopts Plan Aimed at Curbing Job Losses at Mines

Mineworkers mine in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Mineworkers mine in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg
  • Proposals won't halt mining job cuts already announced
  • Companies, unions commit to seek productivity improvements

South Africa’s government, mining companies and labor unions adopted a 10-point plan Monday in an attempt to curb job losses in an industry where more than 11,700 people are at risk of losing their employment.

The plan includes proposals to improve productivity, the re-skilling of workers and the transfer of employees between companies, Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi told reporters in Pretoria. The government and mine operators will also seek buyers for distressed assets that could be run profitably under different management, Ramatlhodi said.

The proposals were adopted after mining operators including Lonmin Plc and Anglo American Plc announced plans to reduce their workforce as metal prices fell to their lowest levels since the fallout from the global financial crisis in 2009. While the government has received notices of plans to cut as many as 11,798 jobs, unions say the figure could be as high as 19,000.

“We recognize that we cannot be able to save all the jobs,” Ramatlhodi said. “That’s why other measures kick in, such as what has been referred to as a government contribution towards retraining and re-skilling.”

Signatories included the National Union of Mineworkers, the largest in gold, the Solidarity Union that represents mostly skilled workers, the Chamber of Mines lobby group and the department of mineral resources.

The agreement wasn’t signed by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the largest in South Africa’s platinum industry and the second-biggest in gold, because it is still contacting members to ensure they back the plan, said Sanele Myeza, its deputy president. The leaders of the AMCU, as the group is known, support the proposals, he said.

The government and companies will lead discussions on how demand for minerals mined in South Africa such as gold and platinum, could be promoted, Ramatlhodi said.

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