Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s No. 1 platinum producer, yesterday warned that South Africa faced the risk of significant job losses due to growing unrest in its mining sector.
“We as a country, as an industry, should be focusing on getting solutions going forward because the industry is actually at risk especially in the operations in the Rustenburg area,” Amplats finance director Bongani Nqwababa told SAFM public radio.
“The focus should be on job conservation because the risk of significant job losses is very, very high,” he said.
Amplats on Wednesday became the second mining giant to be hit by strikes in the Rustenburg platinum belt where it employs 24,000 people, shutting down five mines over safety fears after intimidation threats on miners going to work.
Nearby Lonmin, the world’s No. 3 platinum producer, has been paralyzed by a militant strike in which 45 people have died since Aug. 10.
Yesterday, striking miners at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine rejected a pay offer from management, dashing hopes for an end to a five-week strike.
The strikers gathered on a rocky outcrop near the mine said Lonmin’s offer was well below the 12,500 rand (US$1,500) they are demanding to return to work.
“It’s an industry wide issue and there’s contagion. It’s an industry issue,” Nqwababa said.
The labor unrest has spread outside of platinum to the gold sector, where 15,000 Gold Fields miners have been striking since Sunday.
Amplats workers had handed a memorandum of demands to management on Thursday.
Nqwababa said the demands were the same as what the firm had received a few weeks ago and which was set to go into mediation on Sept. 25.
The memorandum was handed over after thousands of workers rallied to deepen their strike.
“It’s obviously tense and unfortunate, and the immediate focus should be safety of our people, public safety, lowering the temperatures and making sure that we approach this in a sober minded and constructive manner for the good of the industry and for the good of the country,” Nqwababa said.
The backbone of South Africa’s economy, the mining industry directly hires about 500,000 people and contributes up to nearly one-fifth of GDP when related activities are included.