JOHANNESBURG - Sibanye-Stillwater said on Thursday that it would begin consultations with relevant stakeholders in terms of Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act regarding the possible restructuring of its gold operations which might affect more than 6,000 workers.

The diversified miner said the restructuring process was as a result of ongoing financial losses experienced at the Beatrix 1 in Free State and Driefontein 2,6,7,8 shafts in Gauteng during the 2018 financial year. 

This as Sibanye expects to report an attributable loss of R1 billion for the year ended December 31 2018 when it presents its operational and financial results next week. 

Sibanye management has consistently highlighted the operational and financial risks associated with the underperformance of the Driefontein and Beatrix shafts at future forum meetings.

Through a formal Section 189A consultation process, Sibanye and affected stakeholders will together consider measures to avoid and mitigate possible retrenchments and seek alternatives to the potential cessation or downscaling of operations at the affected shafts.

The miner said formal engagement through a Section 189 consultation process had now become unavoidable after numerous initiatives to contain losses at these operations proved unsuccessful. 

"Subject to the outcome of the Section 189A process, approximately 5,870 employees and 800 contractors could possibly be directly impacted," Sibanye said in a statement. "Attempts to jointly devise viable alternative measures to curb losses at these shafts, have so far been unsuccessful."

Sibanye currently employs over 61,000 people in South Africa, compared with 37,700 employees six years ago, and is one of the largest employers in the South African mining industry.

Neal Froneman, chief executive of Sibanye, said contemplating potential restructuring of this nature was never taken lightly. 

"We are aware of the possible impact on many of our colleagues. Our best attempts to address the ongoing losses at these operations, have however been unsuccessful and sustaining these losses may threaten the viability of our other operations,"  Froneman said. 

"Previous engagement of this nature had proven successful, with Beatrix 4 shaft remaining operational and profitable, due to the successful outcome of two separate Section 189A processes in 2013 and 2017."

Froneman said they hoped to engage constructively with stakeholders to find ways to minimize and avoid job losses during this process, while ensuring that additional jobs are not placed at risk in future.

At least 15,000 workers, affiliated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), have been on strike at Beatrix and Driefontein mines since November 2018 demanding higher wages and rejecting all Sibanye offers. Amcu was not immediately available for comment.

- African News Agency (ANA)