THE government has accused Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) of hoarding minerals and depriving the country of economic growth and workers of their livelihoods after the mining giant announced a restructuring of its operations that could cut 14 000 jobs.
The ANC called the Amplats decision, announced yesterday, to mothball four mine shafts and sell its Union mine following a year-long review “cynical and dangerous in the extreme”.
It called on Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu to “call an urgent meeting of the industry with a view to considering the idea of companies who want to mothball shafts to surrender their licences in respect of those shafts so that they can be put on a public auction for new owners who are still hungry to mine”.
Amplats blamed unprofitability in the face of weak demand for platinum and denied the move was a reaction to wildcat strikes that paralysed its operations last year.
But an angry Shabangu said it was “regrettable” that it had consulted her department less than a week ago, “despite the major socio-economic ramifications of its decision”.
“Notwithstanding the purported unprofitability and unviability, the decision to put the Rustenburg operations under care and maintenance for an undefined period demonstrates that the company believes it is ethically acceptable to execute a complex form of hoarding of minerals and deprive the country of economic growth and workers of their livelihoods,” she said.
Amplats head of corporate affairs Mary-Jane Morifi responded by saying the objective of the review had been to “ensure that we can build a stable, profitable and sustainable business for all our stakeholders and shareholders”.
She said the proposed actions would also ensure Amplats could provide “secure, stable employment and contribute positively to the South Africa economy”.
Amplats chief executive Chris Griffiths was quoted in an interview with Reuters as saying the decision had started in 2012 and was not a “reprisal, for example, against the strikes at the end of last year”.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to unions, this is not a short-term response to an economy that may improve in a month or two’s time. The company has to take these drastic and significant actions to save the company and the employment of an additional 45 000 people,” Griffiths said.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement last night that Amplats had applied to switch to new order mining rights when it submitted a 50-year plan, which included a social labour plan.
“This new decision begs the question of what has happened to the original plan and indeed why the motivation for the review of its business change model… is based on maximisation of profit and a very reckless decision to divest in some of the mines.”
It was undermining the government’s plan to create jobs.
Platinum prices climbed to three-month highs yesterday.
But labour leaders have warned of dire repercussions.
Liv Shange, an executive member of the Democratic Socialist Movement, which mobilised workers in North West during the strike last year, said the decision came as no surprise, but its members would not “take this lying down”.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni said
the NUM would engage the company in a bid to save jobs.
The rival Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) threatened to close operations if the review led to shutdowns and job losses.
Cosatu secretary in the North West Solly Phetoe told Independent Newspapers his organisation had not been properly informed of the decision.
See Business Report