A mineworker works at the rock face at the Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, June 4, 2008. Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd is the world's second-biggest platinum producer. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg News

Johannesburg - At least 100 000 workers in the struggling mining sector stand to lose their jobs in the next few months, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Monday.

NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi said the figure ballooned from a previously projected 32 000 following the recent announcement by Anglo American to dispose of some of its assets in South Africa.

“The national executive committee (NEC) has noted with disgust the huge number of retrenchments by various companies in the mining sector. In various areas, we are already participating in the CCMA-facilitated processes aimed at reducing the numbers and seeing to it that retrenchments are done fairly where they cannot be avoided,” Sipunzi told reporters following an NEC meeting last week.

The low commodity prices in the mining sector has seen companies shedding thousands of jobs in the sector.

The latest notices to retrench from companies came from two mining operations, one in Limpopo and another in the North West, he said.

He added that the disposal of assets by Anglo American would also affect its subsidiaries and other companies that supplied the company in the sector.

He lambasted the Department of Minerals and Resources (DMR) for not doing enough to cushion the job losses.

“We have seen the DMR travel to Switzerland to protect Optimum Coal and not coming to us to see what can be done about the job [loss] bloodbath... That behaviour is a big concern to us, we are worried and asking where is the DMR when there are such job losses?” he said.

“We hope that at some point in time they will realise that they are not playing their role as expected,” Sipunzi said.

Premiers in the provinces needed to help in lessening the impact of job losses, he added.

Meetings with Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and premiers have been scheduled to come up with measures to fight job losses, he said.

Zwane faced criticism after he travelled with a delegation from the Gupta family-owned Tegeta Exploration to Switzerland to negotiate the purchase of Optimum. The department confirmed the trip.

Zwane was accused of possibly benefiting personally from the trip, which the department has denied.

The Gupta family, who are close to President Jacob Zuma, are owners of The New Age publication and TV news channel ANN7 and have various other business interests in the country, including in the mining sector.