Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) will cut as many as 1 400 jobs as a strike that has shrunk output at the biggest producer of the metal by half headed for a third week.

The cuts planned for this year follow a loss of 7 438 jobs last year, as Amplats merged five mines at its Rustenburg complex into three. The mining company would remove 1 200 to 1 400 staff this year after reclamation at the closed mines was finished, chief executive Chris Griffith said yesterday.

“By the end of this year we expect that job will be complete,” he said. “If there are vacancies across the group, we will be able to redeploy those people.”

Plans to cut as many as 14 000 jobs announced in January last year, as Amplats sought to reverse losses at its Rustenburg mines of more than R1 billion every six months, were scaled back under pressure from unions and the government.

These mines and the Union, Thumela and Dishaba operations were brought to a halt on January 23 as members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) walked out.

Yesterday Amplats posted a return to full-year profit helped by rising sales and a slide in the value of the rand. The Anglo American unit was on course to achieve a targeted R3.8bn of savings within three years through the Rustenburg restructuring after achieving R1.9bn of savings last year, Griffith said.

Among Amplats assets still operational were its Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo, Unki in Zimbabwe, most of its joint ventures and the processing division, Griffith said.

“The most pressure is coming from the mines that can least afford it,” he said. “It’s the most bizarre thing.”

A strike called by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), with members at Amplats’ smelters and refineries, had not affected operations, Griffith said.

Numsa gave Amplats notice on Thursday that its members would strike over pay from yesterday.

Amplats had about 400 000 ounces of unrefined stocks so it could supply customers for as long as eight weeks even if no work took place at the strike-hit mines, Griffith said.

The company wage bill would rise by R13bn if it met the demands of the Amcu, which might compromise by the end of the week, he added.

Griffith said: “Everyone is trying hard to reach a resolution but I think there’s still a bit of pressure that needs to build up. On the ground it seems people don’t want this to be a protracted strike.”

Headline earnings last year came in at R1.45bn, or R5.56 a share, after a loss of R1.5bn, or R5.62 a share, a year before, the company said.

The median of 16 estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a profit of R5.63 a share. The loss attributable to ordinary shareholders shrank to R1.37bn from R6.68bn.

“We expect the global platinum market to remain balanced in the short term, with increasing deficits over the medium term as steady demand growth exceeds growth in supply from secondary recycled sources and capital-constrained mining,” the company said.

The shares fell 0.41 percent to R440.89 on the JSE yesterday. - Bloomberg