Amplats CEO Chris Griffith. File picture: Leon Nicholas

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) was not confident that it would be able to avert a proposed restructuring that involved the firing of thousands of employees, chief executive Chris Griffith said yesterday.

“We are open to suggestions,” Griffith said during a presentation to the parliamentary committee looking at the platinum sector yesterday.

“We have had a look, very closely, at what we believe we can do. I’m not confident that we are going to have some clever ideas,” he cautioned.

Griffith said persistent labour unrest made it difficult for Amplats to ask investors for additional investment.

The restructuring announced by Amplats last month, in which 14 000 employees could lose their jobs, was put on hold for 60 days to allow for a consultation involving the government and unions to seek a less drastic solution.

As Amplats, unions and the Mineral Resources Department met yesterday to discuss the latest flare-up of violence at its Rustenburg operations, Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook on parent Anglo American to negative. The ratings agency said this was due to concerns over Amplats’ proposed restructuring and Anglo’s troubled Brazilian iron ore project, Minas-Rio.

Moody’s lowered the outlook on the company’s Baa1 senior unsecured and Prime-2 short-term ratings from stable.

“Our negative outlook reflects concerns over a weakening of Anglo American’s credit metrics and the still high execution risk associated with key projects such as developing the Minas-Rio greenfield project in Brazil and the restructuring of its platinum business,” Gianmarco Migliavacca, a Moody’s senior analyst, said.

Anglo has had a tough operating period and posted a 44 percent decline in group underlying profit to $6.2 billion (R55.1bn) last year.

Amplats lost 3 886 ounces of platinum production after its operations ground to a halt as a result of violent conflict on Monday between rival unions at the Siphumelele mine in Rustenburg, the company said yesterday.

The biggest platinum producer said staff had returned to work and operations had resumed at its Rustenburg and Amandelbult operations yesterday.

Employees embarked on an unprotected work stoppage following a violent clash between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), in which 15 employees were injured earlier this week.

The employees were injured by rubber bullets and pangas after about 1 000 workers aligned to offshoot union Amcu demanded the closure of NUM offices.

“Amplats is engaged in constructive discussions with the Department of Mineral Resources, the Chamber of Mines and organised labour in order to ensure a safe environment for employees across the platinum industry,” it said.

Amplats was rocked by an unprotected strike last year.

The latest violent outbreak at the Siphumelele mine outside Rustenburg added to tension at the platinum producer.

On Tuesday Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu stepped in to help resolve the impasse when she met with unions and management at the company.

About 10 000 workers gathered at the Bleskop Stadium in Rustenburg on Tuesday, angry about the company’s interference in union disputes, labour leader Evans Ramokga said.

Union officials from NUM, Uasa, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Amcu and Solidarity met with representatives of the Department of Mineral Resources, the Department of Labour and the Chamber of Mines in Pretoria yesterday to further discuss solutions to the crisis in the platinum industry.

After the outlook downgrade Anglo shares dropped 2.02 percent to close at R268.48 on the JSE yesterday. Shares in Amplats, in which Anglo owns nearly 80 percent, fell 1.12 percent to R441.99.