‘Suspending mine licences will lead to more job losses’

DA MP James Lorimer has reacted to the suspension of Glencore’s Optimum Coal Mine’s mining licence.

FILE: The mine issues retrenchment notices which saying they’re necessary due to an uneconomic coal contract with Eskom. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Democratic Alliance (DA) says threatening mining companies with the suspension of their mining licences over job cuts will only lead to more people losing their livelihoods in the troubled industry.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Member of Parliament James Lorimer was reacting to the suspension of Glencore's Optimum Coal Mine's mining licence.

Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has criticised retrenchments at the mine, which says they're necessary due to an uneconomic coal contract with Eskom.

Lorimer says the slump in commodity prices globally is only part of the problem.

"A bigger problem is government's poor policy and poorly implemented policy. Right now what the government should be doing is making it easier for miners to survive the tough times. It's not going to help if they do nothing but threaten the miners and make it more difficult for them to operate because more jobs will be lost."

Meanwhile, Ramatlhodi says while he can't force unions to lower their wage demands or companies to pay their workers more, he will attempt to act as the voice of reason during negotiations.

Talks between unions and bosses in the gold and coal sectors are currently underway, and while workers have rejected the final offer for gold, unions have accused the chamber of mines of failing in the coal sector.

Ramatlhodi is meeting mine bosses and unions in Pretoria over two days where strike prevention will be one of the main issues.

He has pleaded with workers to consider jobs when negotiating.

"What the ministry can do is not to negotiate but to appeal for the voice of reason. We don't want another prolonged strike, particularly in the current environment, it is not good; it is a very bad environment."

But Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's (Amcu) Joseph Mathunjwa says it's time to correct the injustices of the past.

"The expectation is to tell these capitalists that it's the right time to pay back what they owe the workers, particularly black mining workers."

At the same time, Solidarity's Gideon du Plessis has critcised the Chamber of Mines for the coal negotiations.

"We are not pleased because the chamber has lost control of the negotiations in the coal sector."

Companies will continue with talks in the gold sector this week.