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JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Mineworkers will discuss job losses in the industry, the health and safety of workers and corruption at state-owned companies at its national congress next month, it said on Thursday.

The NUM, formed 35 years ago, said its 16th congress on June 20-22 would also discuss the government's decision to sign deals with independent power producers (IPPs) on behalf of electricity company Eskom, a move it said amounted to attempts to privatise the state-owned utility which would lead to job losses.

"The issue of job losses, our government stance on IPPs, and the rot in SOEs (state-owned enterprises) will feature prominently in the congress discussions," NUM said.

The government in April signed renewable energy contracts with independent power producers which it said would unlock R56 billion in investments but which unions insisted would lead to massive job losses in the coal sector. Most of South Africa's electricity is currently coal-fired.

"We view this capitalist IPPs deal as a backdoor privatization of Eskom. The plan is to privatize 42 percent of Eskom by 2030 masquerading as the implementation of clean energy," NUM said.

"If the IPPs have got power to generate, let them stand alone and compete with Eskom. We must defend these jobs."

NUM said it was concerned about fatalities in South Africa's mining industry, which it blamed on companies' reckless pursuit of profit. Mining companies have always rejected this charge from unions..

"It is unacceptable that mineworkers are denied their basic human right to work in an environment that guarantees their safety and that instead they are expected to go to work to die," NUM said.

The mineworkers union, which is affiliated to labour federation Cosatu, a key ally of the ruling African National Congress, said its congress would also dill deliberate on what resources it could make available to bolster the ANC's campaign for next year's general election.

- African News Agency (ANA)