Sibanye Gold has entered into Section 189 consultations with unions and other stakeholders on the future of its recently acquired Cooke 4 mine, where as many as 2 500 jobs may be affected by efforts to boost profits and productivity.

“A consultation process in terms of section 189A of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995 will be entered into with organised labour and other relevant stakeholders, in order to initiate formal consultations aimed at identifying and implementing sustainable solutions to ensure delivery of the required productivity and profitability levels at the Cooke 4 mine,” Sibanye Gold said in a statement.

The Cooke assets were primarily acquired for the significant gold and uranium mineral resources and reserves associated with the surface tailings material. These resources are critical in bringing to account Sibanye’s West Rand Tailings Retreatment Project.

The Section 189 process involves a 60 day consultation period with trade unions and affected employees, facilitated by the CCMA. Sibanye entered into a similar process at Beatrix West Section in April 2013 following an underground fire which threatened the viability of the operation.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has threatened to go on strike if job cuts became a possibility. “We will fight any retrenchments through all legal means and will even resort to strike action if we have to,” NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said.

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted responded that talk about possible staff trimming is premature at this stage. “We do not know how many people will be laid off, the 2 500 number is roughly the number of employees at Cooke 4,” Wellsted said.

“The idea is to enter discussions with unions and all employees to try and avoid any retrenchments if possible. Cooke 4 has been impacted by government-ordered safety stoppages and its productivity has suffered.”

Remedial action and restructuring undertaken following the section 189 consultation process, where less than 100 jobs were lost because many employees were successfully redeployed, resulted in a significant improvement in profitability at Beatrix West Section and an extension of its forecast operating life.

The Cooke 1, 2 and 3 mines continue to operate in line with forecasts and will not be directly affected by the Section 189 process at Cooke 4.

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