Looming job cuts at Impala platinum mines

Another round of retrenchment at platinum mines in Rustenburg in the North West is on the cards  with Impala Platinum Mine announcing its reviewing its workforce.

The world’s second biggest mine, which employs more than 30-thousand workers, has already retrenched over 2-thousand employees last year.

However, that was not enough as the company is also planning to close down some of its shafts, due to low production levels and plummeting metal prices.

The demand for platinum globally has decreased, and that has resulted in the tumbling of metal prices, to a record low in almost ten years. This has exerted pressure on several companies, including Lonmin in Marikana and Impala Platinum mine in Rustenburg.

While Lonmin is cutting 12-600 jobs over a period of three years, Impala says it has been running all its operations at costs, and will have to further make financial adjustments.

Only three out of 10 of its operations are profitable. It is for this reason that the company is now making a strategic review on its all operations.

Spokesperson of Impala Platinum mine, Johan Theron says, “There is a two processes on the go, we have specifically looked at costs structures, we have already reduced number of people we employed on the mine by 2500 people. Second way is through strategic review, and now that work has not been completed in the next months or so.”

A rock-drill operator at Impala, who works at shaft 1, near Freedom Park in Rustenburg, says the news of retrenchments have come as a shock. The mine-worker, who preferred to be anonymous due to safety reasons, says this retrenchment will be a blow to his entire family who relies on his salary for a living.

One of the workers says, “This is going to affect us badly because we depend on this job to provide for our families. All of us are worried, and we do not know how is going to be retrenched. I just wish government can come up with a plan to intervene because this job is the main reason we are alive today because we provide for our families.”

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says although the employer has not officially furnished them with a notice of retrenchment, they are aware of planned job cuts.

Mxlalisi Sthethe says, “Job security for our members is really worrying in the industry. The employer when encountering problems in terms of costs, they cut workforce, and we are hearing that most companies, including Impala are going to retrench thousands of workers. However, as NUM in Rustenburg, Impala has not formally communicated this to us. In fact we confronted Impala bosses and they said they have not decided yet. This brings so much uncertainty to workers and their families.”

Meanwhile the Rustenburg Chamber of Commerce says since 2014 five months strike, the economy of the city has not been able to recover. Pieter Milan of the chamber says further looming retrenchments will take away the public’s buying power, severely affecting business in the city.

Rustenburg Chamber of Commerce Pieter Milam says, “We have seen the business environment declining since the strike in 2012. And unfortunately in Rustenburg, we still waiting for proper recovery. Unfortunately business needs market and part of the market is the mining operations and to put into context, 70% of regional gross development product is derived from mining. If further retrenchments has to take pace the buying power of the public is going to decrease, and it’s going to have affected. We need economic revival.”

Meanwhile, Impala says it will make public their findings of the strategic review that may affect its workforce and aging shafts, in September this year.

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