Sibanye Gold
miners at work
underground at
the company’s
Beatrix operation
Johannesburg, South Africa — 30 May 2013

Sibanye Gold management and unions have agreed that 1,110 workers will be retrenched, in the process staving off thousands of jobs cuts at the struggling and fire-ravaged Beatrix West mine, in a fraught mining environment.

BDlive reports that the announcement from South Africa’s largest gold producer came a day after mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu said her department was urgently looking at a rescue plan for the troubled gold and platinum sectors.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest miner of the metal, has come under political pressure, not least from Shabangu, to revisit its restructuring plans, causing unease among investors about state meddling in companies’ business decisions.

Amplats had initially proposed 14,000 job cuts, and has revised that down to 6,000 but  Shabangu wants to reduce that number still further.

Sibanye, formed when Gold Fields unbundled three old, deep-level gold mines in South Africa into a newly listed company, had said that up to 3,000 jobs could be cut at Beatrix West after a fire shut the Free State mine in February.

Beatrix West contributed 80,000oz/year of gold, a quarter of Beatrix’s annual output.
Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said that 1,110 jobs would be cut, with 330 workers used to develop and open new areas of the mine being affected.

Another 780 jobs would be cut from the entire Beatrix mining operation in the Free State.
Halting development expenditure cut costs sufficiently to return the mine to breaking even, if not making a small profit, at the prevailing gold price of R437,000/kg. There is enough development underground to keep the mine running for a year.

“A lot of positive things can happen, but companies can’t keep taking risks and being charitable institutions, because it has a knock-on effect for the rest of the business,” Froneman said.

He praised the unions, including gold sector newcomer the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), for playing their part in keeping the mine open. “We did it by the book. The unions came up with some solutions and we were flexible in our thinking. This is the end result,” he said.

Solidarity secretary-general Gideon du Plessis said talks would be held under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to decide how to cut the workforce without forced retrenchments.

The National Union of Mineworkers said it had not agreed to any retrenchments of workers at Beatrix West, saying it had agreed to a voluntary separation process to cut the workforce.

Source: BDlive. For more information, click here.