President Jacob Zuma File photo: Leon Nicholas

Pretoria - Many South African families and the ailing economy would suffer if mining companies fired employees amidst instability in the sector, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.

“The threat of job losses in the mining and steel sectors is of serious concern to government as it would have a negative impact on many families, communities and the economy,” Zuma said at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“To address the current job losses in the mining sector, the minister of mineral resources [Ngoako Ramatlhodi] convened a retreat of tripartite stakeholders in the mining sector on August 5. The stakeholders have identified a number of areas to save jobs and to find alternatives to job losses.”

Zuma said a task team, established and mandated to develop the proposals which may avoid job losses, would provide an update this week.

Regarding Ramatlhodi’s suspension of the mining licence of Glencore’s Optimum Colliery, Zuma said the matter had been resolved.

“The department of mineral resources continues to issue orders to companies that do not comply with the law. The matter of the suspension of the licence of Optimum Coal has been resolved. Following engagements with the company, the suspension was lifted and the company was directed to address issues relating to non-compliance,” said Zuma.

The president was updating the media on progress made in areas relating to economic growth and job creation since his state-of-the-nation address in February this year.

Last week, Ramatlhodi told reporters that the suspension of Optimum Colliery’s licence would be lifted if there is a breakthrough in negotiations.

“At this stage, we are of the view that the management at that operation has not been collaborating enough with us. We then put certain conditions to say we want you to address one, two three, four, five. We didn’t take that decision lightly because we know that Optimum is dedicated to Eskom’s supply chain,” he told reporters in Pretoria.

“In the face of the loadshedding, we hope we can have very quick outcomes out of this action [the suspension of the licence and the negotiations]. Since yesterday [Tuesday], there have been discussions between the various parties led by the ministry and they are continuing. I’m hoping I’ll be done a favour with commitments from Optimum that they will follow the directives that we have issued and I should be able to lift the suspension as a matter of urgency.”

Ramathlodi late last week conditionally lifted the suspension of the licence for Optimum.