Antony Sguazzin and Gordon Bell

COMPANIES that bought operations put up for sale by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) after a pay strike by mineworkers would need to co-exist with labour unions rather than mechanise the operations, Phuti Mahanyele, the chief executive of Shanduka Group, which owns stakes in platinum mines, said yesterday.

Amplats said last month that it would 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 dropped 88 percent because of a five-month strike.

The company, in which Anglo American owns nearly 80 percent, employed almost 50 000 people at the end of last year, Bloomberg data show.

South African mines are labour-intensive, a legacy of the apartheid economy that relied on cheap black labour to mine the world’s biggest gold and platinum deposits.

To end the strike, Amplats, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin were forced to agree to above-inflation pay increases that they said they could not afford. Implats has said it might mechanise a future development to reduce the company’s labour costs.

“Going the mechanised route is an aggressive approach,” Mahanyele said in an interview at the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington on Tuesday. “We have to find ways to work with labour.”

Shanduka, the company founded by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, owns an 18 percent stake in Lonmin’s platinum mines in South Africa, where three-quarters of the world’s newly mined platinum is produced.

On Amplats’s plans to sell assets, Mahanyele said: “I certainly do think we will see interest from local companies. We are on the verge of seeing some changes.”

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

On Tuesday Lonmin said options over 42 264 shares granted to chief financial officer Simon Scott in 2011 had lapsed on Monday because performance conditions measuring shareholder returns were not met.

Lonmin’s shares fell for a seventh day in London, the longest streak of losses since July 2012, as they hit a 15-year low. The JSE-listed shares rose 0.70 percent to R40.33.

Amplats fell 0.72 percent to R460.86. Implats declined 0.18 percent to R106.91. – Bloomberg