Platinum mining sector needs stability

A picture taken on October 6, 2012 shows workers standing outside the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine in Rustenburg. Picture: AFP
CAPE TOWN - The Chamber of Mines said it is praying the mining sector will now be given a chance to stabilise without the constant threat of strike action.

Chamber officials briefed Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on Wednesday. 

This follows Monday's shooting at the Amplats mine in Rustenberg, where more than a dozen workers were injured.

Sector role players admitted the platinum industry is in a crisis as its being strangled by high input costs and low productivity.

The Chamber's Roger Baxter said, “Our hope is for a stable and safe environment where the engagement process takes its course and where all parties are playing a role within the engagement process. At the end of it, we will address the challenges that labour faces.”

Baxter said times are tough - platinum mining is being strangled by rapidly rising input costs while demand and prices for the commodity have fallen.

Between 2006 and 2011, electricity, steel and labour costs have risen by R28 billion while platinum group metals production dropped significantly.

Baxter also says the Marikana tragedy, which claimed the lives of 44 people, affected the industry very badly, with estimates that R10 billion in revenue has been lost.

The miners lost their lives during clashes with police in August.

Meanwhile, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said it'll make a final decision on its plan to cut 14, 000 mining jobs in the next few months.

Earlier this year, Amplats, the world’s largest platinum producer, announced it would close down two of its mines and cut around 14,000 jobs. 

This follows a loss of profits recorded last year due to wildcat strikes.

Amplats CEO Chris Griffith told Members of Parliament he is not confident talks between government and unions will change the situation.

He said their restructuring process is underway.

“There’s a 60-day process, which started in the beginning of February and then there’s a 60-day consultation process. And the end of that period is the time we’re most likely to make announcements.”

Last week Amplats miners said they are preparing for "the mother of all strikes" to bring the company to its knees.

Workers representative Gaddafi Mdoda said they had already started visiting mining communities to recruit people for the strike.

“It is also us who are organising to make sure that everyone who is feeling the oppression that we feel so we can have a general mass strike.”

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)