Sibanye announced on Wednesday that it would cut more than 5 270 jobs at its Marikana operation and associated services, which were previously under Lonmin. File Photo: IOL
JOHANNESBURG – Sibanye-Stillwater intends to take advantage of the lapse of the six-month moratorium on retrenchments after its merger with Lonmin and axe more than 5 270 workers in December, with unions on Wednesday slamming the jobs bloodbath.

Sibanye announced on Wednesday that it would cut more than 5 270 jobs at its Marikana operation and associated services, which were previously under Lonmin in North West province. This consists of 3 904 employees and 1 366 contractors. 

Sibanye said this was pursuant to ongoing financial losses experienced at these operations with certain shafts having reached the end of their economic reserve lives.

The group proposes to place on care and maintenance loss-making operations at the East 1 (E1), West 1 (W1) and Hossy shafts and the open-cast operations.

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said that the section 189 notice means that the miner would now enter into 60 days engagement with stakeholders, including unions, with the hope of finding constructive ways to avoid large job losses. 

Wellsted said those questioning Sibanye for closing some shafts when the platinum group metals (PGM) price was high did not understand its operations.

“We did a full detailed review of the Marikana operations. The closures of the shafts are purely because they have reached their economic reserve lives, not because we want to. Some have been running for 30 to 40 years,” Wellsted said.

“The PGM price is high, but it does not mean that it will stay that way. We are creating a business that will realise synergies and efficiencies, restore profitability and sustain 22 000 jobs.”

Wellsted said that Lonmin had disclosed in 2017 that some of its shafts would be closed during the merger talks, but retrenchments were halted as competition authorities imposed a six months moratorium.

“Lonmin was planning to invest in other projects and divert workers there when it closes these shafts. But it announced a R1.8 billion loss last year. So it could not invest in those projects due to financial distress,” he said.

Sibanye’s R5.2bn acquisition of the entire share issue of Lonmin to become a major platinum producer was approved in June following after 18 months of litigation by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and Marikana communities.

Amcu, the majority union in the platinum sector, was opposing the merger, saying that it would result in large job losses.

The Competition Commission Appeal Court then imposed a six months moratorium on retrenchments on the merger in a bid to protect jobs, but the moratorium will lapse on December 7.

Amcu on Wednesday confirmed having received a notice of the possible retrenchments.

The union said in a statement that it was processing the notice and the various supporting documents that were sent as part of the rationale for the possible retrenchment. The union will comment more comprehensively once due processes are completed.

“For now, we emphasise that this notice again clearly shows the principle of profit over people,” Amcu said.

Spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, Livhuwani Mammburu, also said the union had received a section 189 notice from Sibanye.

The Department of Mineral Resources said it was “disheartening” to hear of potential job losses at Sibanye in these tough economic times when the country is faced with increased unemployment.

It urged all stakeholders to engage in good faith and explore all possible options to save jobs and to act responsibly and with due care as they deal with this sensitive matter.