Picture Antoine de Ras
JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called on JSE-listed diamond company Trans Hex to surrender its mining licence amid its plan to retrench 332 employees at its ageing and loss-making Baken Mine in the Northern Cape.

Num spokesperson Livhu­wani Mammburu yesterday questioned why the diamond producer was putting the mine, which has been operating for more than 45 years, under care and maintenance if it was no longer profitable.

“Our position as the NUM is that they must return their mining licence to the regulator, which is the Department of Mineral Resources, so that interested companies can take over and mine there. It is clear that they are lying,” he said.

Trans Hex, which operates mines in Angola and South Africa, has blamed the decision to retrench on financial losses, saying they had made every effort to sustain operation, “however, the mine’s low carat production and subsequent financial losses are now considered to be unsustainable”.

The producer said that Baken incurred a loss of R35.8 million in the 2017 financial year and a R46.5m loss for the period April to July 2017.

Trans Hex spokesperson Helena Crouse referred Business Report to a company statement, which, among other things, said that Baken was the last of their ageing Lower Orange River operations.

“Baken has reached the point where operations are no longer viable under Trans Hex’s ownership and management,” the statement said.

The crucial matter of saving jobs in the sector is receiving priority attention by the Minerals and Petroleum Board, appointed by the Minister of Mineral Resources.

Any potential retrenchments must be brought to the attention of the department and dealt with in terms of Section 52 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

All rightholders are reminded to adhere to the 10 point plan on job savings, which was signed in 2015 by stakeholders in the industry.

The mining industry is currently facing 20000 possible job reductions as a result of widening losses, high costs, the strong rand and low production at South Africa’s ageing mines owned by Sibanye Gold and AngloGold Ashanti.

Trans Hex said that Baken was nearing the end of life in its current form. Operations would continue at the mine during the consultation process with the NUM and Baken would then be placed on care and maintenance from November 1.

Trans Hex shares rose 2.61% on the JSE yesterday to close at R3.15.

-BUSINESS REPORT