Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Platinum stocks wobbled yesterday after the majority union in the industry, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), threatened fire and brimstone over Impala Platinum (Implats) plans to cut 13 000 jobs in the next two years. 

Royal Bafokeng Platinum led the rout, falling 4 percent to close at R24, and Lonmin shed 1.92 percent to R7.16 after Amcu said it would target Implats operations across the country to oppose the plans. 

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the union remained open to engagements with Implats, but warned that if avoidance measures failed, Implats would face industrial action across its operations.

“We will ask for a secondary strike where there is a link to Implats,” Mathunjwa said in a fire-and-brimstone-style media briefing in Johannesburg yesterday. 

“If they own mines in Limpopo, we will ask for a secondary strike (there) to ensure no ounce of platinum goes out of the ground.” Implats, the target of Amcu’s threats, closed 1.11 percent lower at R18.65. 

Only Anglo American Platinum and Northam Platinum shrugged off the threats, rising 2.15 percent and 3.13 percent to close at R420.01 and R36.87 respectively. 

Implats spokesperson Johan Theron said yesterday that the company was fighting for economic survival. 

“To strike would harm it more and cause more job losses,” said Theron. 

“It’s hard to see how striking would resolve that. We hope we can find each other and come up with ways to save as many jobs as possible.” 4

Around 80 percent of platinum mines in South Africa are under water and earnings negative at current spot prices. Labour and mining analyst Mamokgethi Molopyane said platinum producers the world over were battling a saturated market. 

“That’s why the platinum price has remained repressed.” 

Molopyane said. “In South Africa, however, it is happening on a larger scale because of the number of people employed.” 

Mathunjwa’s threats come after Implats last week announced that it would reduce its employees from 40 000 to 27 000 in the next two years and mothball its shafts from the current 11 to six as commodity prices and high productions costs weighed on its balance sheet. 

Implats, which has operations in the Northwest, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, said it had weathered huge losses at its ageing mines. 

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe also criticised Implats, charging that the miner was negotiating in bad faith. Izak van Niekerk, an investment analyst at Mergence, said the number of jobs on the line could end up being lower than the punted 13 000. 

“Impala did say there are plans to try and redeploy some of those employees in the rest of the business,” Van Niekerk said. 

Amcu led a wildcat strike over wages in 2102, which saw 34 mineworkers killed by the police outside Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg. 

Ten others, including security personnel and police officers, died in violent clashes days preceding the massacre. In the past five years 70 000 jobs have been lost in the mining industry as companies grappled to stay afloat. 

Mathunjwa said Amcu was also fighting efforts by Lonmin to retrench 12 600 employees. 

He said: “We are the only trade union at Implats. Amcu represents more than 70 percent of the workforce in the platinum sector.  “We will teach them how to be accountable. Amcu will never stomach 13 000 workers going home. Never!” 

Mathunjwa called on the government to nationalise the shafts that would be closed. 

“The State must revoke the licences of mines in care and maintenance (and take them over) to create sustainable jobs and address the issue of unemployment in the country.”

-BUSINESS REPORT