Picture: Boxer Ngwenya.

Johannesburg - The companies that buy mines put up for sale by Anglo American Platinum after a pay strike by South African mineworkers will need to coexist with labour unions rather than mechanise the operations, said the chief executive officer of Shanduka Group, which owns stakes in platinum mines.

Anglo American Platinum, the Johannesburg-based company known as Amplats, said last month that it will sacrifice its status as the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal by seeking buyers for four mines and possibly stakes in two joint ventures after first-half profit fell 88 percent because of a five-month strike.

The company employed almost 50,000 people at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

South African mines are labour intensive, a legacy of the apartheid system that ended in 1994.

The whites-only government based its economy on using cheap black labour to mine the world’s biggest gold and platinum deposits.

To end the strike, Amplats, Impala Platinum and Lonmin were forced to agree to above-inflation pay increases that they said they couldn’t afford.

Impala has said it may mechanise a future development to reduce its labour costs.

“Going the mechanised route is an aggressive approach,” Phuti Mahanyele, the chief executive of Shanduka, said in an interview at the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington yesterday.

“We have to find ways to work with labour.”


Local Interest


Shanduka, the company founded by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, owns an 18 percent stake in Lonmin’s platinum mines in South Africa, which produces three quarters of the world’s platinum.

“I certainly do think we will see interest from local companies,” Mahanyele said of Amplats’ sale plans.

“We are on the verge of seeing some changes.”

She declined to say whether Shanduka was interested in more platinum assets.

The US-Africa Business Forum is hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the US Commerce Department.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is led by Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News. - Bloomberg News