Stock image: NUM president Piet Matosa, secretary general David Sipunzi and his deputy William Mabapa brief media on retrenchments in the mining sector. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - The labour movement in the mining industry vowed it would not take the jobs bloodbath lying down with NUM, the biggest union in mining, pushing back on the retrenchments.

The march was a build up to the fight against retrenchments as about 21350 jobs were on the line amid looming job cuts at AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye Gold and the Bokoni Platinum Mine plans to restructure loss-making operations.

AngloGold Ashanti plans to retrench 8500 employees amid plans to mothball the ageing Kopanang, Savuka and Tau Tona mines. Bokoni in Mpumalanga plans to retrench 2651 employees, while 10200 jobs were on the line at Sibanye Gold, which plans to restructure its loss-making Cooke and Beatrix operations.

NUM said that there was no basis for the retrenchments as commodity prices had rebounded since late last year, buoyed by an improvement in the world economic outlook, with the return of risk appetite among global investors.

Tafa Moya, the NUM mining co-ordinator at AngloGold Ashanti, said the retrenchments at AngloGold Ashanti were unnecessary.

“AngloGold Ashanti claims that it is uneconomical to mine those shafts. We are of a different view. Our belief is that it is greedy to claim it is uneconomical to mine those shafts, because there is still gold underground that can be mined for years,” said Moya.

He also said the union was in talks with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to intervene.

“We are engaging the DMR with the hope that as the custodian of the country’s minerals it can conduct a due diligence on the three AngloGold Ashanti mines to verify viability of the mines,” he said.

The march comes as Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane held a meeting on Friday with Sibanye chief executive, Neal Froneman, as part of his programme on talking to mining rights' holders.

“As a responsible government we are, therefore, concerned about the trend we have noticed recently on retrenchment announcements, and we continue to urge all stakeholders to be more responsible in how these planned retrenchments are announced, as they impact on thousands of lives and livelihoods.”

Zwane said the Minerals and Petroleum Board was in the process of appointing independent experts to assess the ore body at affected operations, to ensure that the sterilisation of minerals is avoided.

Keep operations

“We want to, as far as possible, ensure that we can keep the operations open, if they can be viably mined by other operators,” Zwane said.

Gideon du Plessis, trade union’s Solidarity general secretary, on Friday took a swipe at Sibanye for the job losses.

“Although the official figure for the number of affected workers stands at 7400, there are also about 2400 contractors, 365 employees not yet placed as part of an earlier scaling-down process, and also about 50 people in management positions affected by an unrelated process due to the separation between Sibanye’s South African operations and its US interests.

"This brings the total number of affected employees to 10200,” Du Plessis said.

He blamed Sibanye for having acted in haste.

Du Plessis also said that recent management reshuffles at some of the shafts had led to the company replacing competent management teams with inexperienced management teams, resulting in losses.