File image: Reuters

About 220 employees at Fluormin's Witkop fluorspar mine in the North West will be retrenched before the end of the year, trade union Solidarity said on Friday.

The union said the mine had 225 employees and 38 of them were members of Solidarity.

It said the mine alleged that, after attempts to lower its operating costs, it came to the conclusion that a large-scale retrenchment process was the only way out.

Fluormin financial officer John Cronje confirmed that the company would entrench its employees due to the “collapse of the fluorspar market”.

Solidarity spokeswoman Moira-Marie Kloppers said the union would discuss the retrenchments with the company.

“When Solidarity starts consulting with employers about possible retrenchments, we always look for alternatives to retrenchments first. In this case it seems that there are few alternatives available,” she said in a statement.

“In the consultation process we will therefore focus on negotiating the best possible severance packages and assisting our members as much as possible so that they get back on their feet as soon as possible.

“Employees will face a sombre festive season,” Kloppers said.

The mine aimed to complete the process before December 14.

South Africa has the largest deposits of fluorspar in the world. It is used for, among many other things, smelting. - Sapa