Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe this week launched a scathing criticism on plans by the mining industry to retrench more people. File Photo: IOL
JOHANNESBURG - Mineral  Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe this week launched a scathing criticism on plans by the mining industry to retrench more people in an economy that is barely growing.

Mantashe told the Joburg Indaba that the industry was sending wrong message to investors at the time when it needed them most

He said that attempts to attract more investments were being scuppered by wrong messages, pointing to the reopening of the Prieska copper and zinc, which was closed 28 years ago and the move by Vedanta Resources to develop the Gamsberg zinc project as signs that the industry could rebound.

“If the industry says to the world we are just a bunch of angry people that fight one another that is what the world will see,”said Mantashe.

The Minerals Council estimates that the sector accounted for 7.3 percent to the gross domestic product  (GDP) in 2018 from 6.8 percent in 2017 and contributed R356 billion.

However, the industry has come into sharp focus in the wake of massive retrenchments and the closure of shafts.

Last week, Sibanye Stillwater announced plans to cut more than 5 000 jobs at its newly acquired Lonmin mines.

The group said it would enter into consultation with relevant stakeholders in terms of Section 189  of the Labour Relations Act regarding the restructuring of Marikana.

It said it expected around 5 270 jobs including 3 904 employees and 1 366 contractors to be lost due to the restructuring.  

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) deputy general secretary and chief negotiator William Mabapa said the economy was a point where labour and business needed each other to boost the mining industry.

Mabapa said that labour continued to be sidelined, citing Sibanye-Stillwater’s plans to restructure its Lonmin operations as an example.

“We know we must make a transition. Our general secretary (David Sipunzi) got phoned around 9.10 am on the day about the Section 189 process at Sibanye-Stillwater. In ten minutes, Section 189 was all over the media. My question is, did they plan the Section 189 in 10 minutes?"

Mabapa said Anglo American’s De Beers had involved the union in its plans to develop the Venetia Diamond Mine in Limpopo.

“Engage us and engage us timeously, plan with us so we take the journey together. If you confront us you know the results of confrontation,” Mabapa said.

Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said the industry needed an aligned voice, bringing labour, government, non-governmental organisations and mining companies to promote the South African mining industry. 

“Investors must believe that we have confidence in our industry, economy and institutions if they are going to invest. We cannot achieve this when we keep pulling from different ends,” Cutifani said.

“I’m not for a second suggesting that we should abandon our respective positions and causes, I’m merely making the point that we are all vested in the success of this industry and need to start acting in that way,” Cutifani said.