The mining industry will retrench thousands‚ possibly at least 10‚000 or more miners in the first quarter of next year‚ says Chamber of Mines CEO Bheki Sibiya.

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club on Friday‚ Sibiya described the mining industry as literally being between a rock and a hard place.

“On the one hand we have a lot of pressure about wages and employment‚ and on the other‚ shareholders who need a reasonable return‚” he said.

According to the Chamber of Mines, the SA mining industry gives employment to 500‚000 people directly and another 500‚000 indirectly.

Sibiya singled out the platinum‚ gold and chrome mines as the ones that were most likely to shed workers.

“More than half of the platinum mines are just breaking even‚ if not running at a loss due to poor demand and a lower platinum price.

“The gold sector has to mine deeper and deeper and this is going to incur more costs especially for electricity to pay for the hoisting of men and material. The chrome sector is also facing lower demand and prices‚” he said.

The coal-mining sector‚ Sibiya said‚ was stable for the time being.

Sibiya said the a rescue plan was needed particularly for marginal gold mines that were being forced to mine deeper‚ up to 5 kilometres.

Sibiya described the Marikane massacre on August 16‚ as a shameful event for the mining sector‚ but that the workers themselves were not angels.

“We had 10 people who were murdered before that day…and then another eight killed after‚” he said.

Sibiya bemoaned that the mining industry appeared to be a target of strife for many social forces including unions and politics and that more should be done to protect the sector as “…it was the crown jewels‚ or the goose that lays the golden egg of the country”.

He said other countries protected the industries that gave them a competitive advantage.

“SA has lost its competitive advantage in the mining sector‚” Sibiya said. - I-Net Bridge