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CAPE TOWN  - The Bench Marks Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet to Bokoni Platinum in Limpopo, which is retrenching 2651 employees, to give details of its plans to mothball shafts as it reiterated its call for mining houses to pay retrenched employees social grants.

Bench Marks, the faith-based non-governmental organisation that monitors corporate performance, said on Friday that communities feared that the mine would use this “suspension” as a way of avoiding its requirement to rehabilitate the land.

It was responding to news that Bokoni had been placed in a two-year period of care and maintenance to regain its financial strength.

Bench Marks executive director, John Capel, said there were many unanswered questions around Bokoni.

“Once a mine’s operation is suspended, what onus is on it to continue operations once the suspension period has passed? How can we be sure that the same workers will be employed? How will infrastructure such as boreholes be maintained in good working order? What about the state of the roads that are used to take children to school, for example?”

Around 20 000 job losses are looming in the mining industry as Bokoni, a joint venture between Atlatsa Resources and Anglo American Platinum, the world’s biggest platinum producer, affect jobs.

AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third biggest gold producer, said it would cut 8500 jobs, while Sibanye Gold said 7400 jobs excluding contractors were on the line amid the plan to place loss-making shafts on care and maintenance.

Capel also said that mining companies should establish a system of social grants to support the mineworkers they were retrenching.

He said that responsibility to workers and communities did not end when a mine suspended its operations, and that the onus was on mining companies to ensure sustainable life for affected communities.

“Communities such as Monametse, Sefateng, Mosotse and other nearby villages are going to be deeply affected by Bokoni’s decision,” he said.

“The mine has failed to help people in these villages generate a sustainable income. Most of these villagers’ ploughing fields have been denuded by mining operations and there are still a lot of people living in abject poverty,” he said.

Capel said one of the biggest fears of communities was that the mine would use this “suspension” as a way of avoiding its requirement to rehabilitate the land.

The Chamber of Mines had previously said companies contributed to a range of social benefits for employees, including through their regular unemployment insurance payments and retirement fund contributions.

“Any additional costs that may be required to fund any additional social grants, would have an impact on the sustainability of all mines. These are issues that are in fact considered in almost every set of wage negotiations,” it said.

South Africa has 17 million social grant beneficiaries who rely on the Social Security Agency.