Mantashe urges Sibanye to explore all possible options before retrenching more than 6,000 workers

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JOHANNESBURG, February 14 – Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe on Thursday urged Sibanye-Stillwater to explore all possible options to ensure that as many jobs as possible are saved during the mining company’s restructuring.

Earlier, Sibanye said it would begin consultations with relevant stakeholders in terms of Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act regarding the possible restructuring of its gold operations which might affect more than 6,000 workers.

The diversified miner said the restructuring process was as a result of ongoing financial losses experienced at Beatrix 1 shaft in the Free State and Driefontein 2,6,7,8 shafts in Gauteng during the 2018 financial year.

In a statement, the department said Mantashe was urging all stakeholders to engage in good faith to save jobs, adding that the department will engage with stakeholders in line with Section 52 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).

“The minister remains committed to continuous engagement with stakeholders in the industry, in line with commitments by stakeholders in the Mining Leadership Compact,” it said.

Sibanye expects to report an attributable loss of R1 billion for the year ended December 31, 2018 when it presents its operational and financial results next week.

Sibanye management has consistently highlighted the operational and financial risks associated with the underperformance of the Driefontein and Beatrix shafts at future forum meetings.

Through a formal Section 189A consultation process, Sibanye and affected stakeholders will together consider measures to avoid and mitigate possible retrenchments and seek alternatives to the potential cessation or downscaling of operations at the affected shafts.

Sibanye currently employs over 61,000 people in South Africa, compared with 37,700 employees six years ago, and is one of the largest employers in the South African mining industry.

Neal Froneman, chief executive of Sibanye, said contemplating potential restructuring of this nature was never taken lightly.

“We are aware of the possible impact on many of our colleagues. Our best attempts to address the ongoing losses at these operations, have however been unsuccessful and sustaining these losses may threaten the viability of our other operations,”  Froneman said.

“Previous engagement of this nature had proven successful, with Beatrix 4 shaft remaining operational and profitable, due to the successful outcome of two separate Section 189A processes in 2013 and 2017.”

At least 15,000 workers, affiliated with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), have been on strike at Beatrix and Driefontein mines since November 2018 demanding higher wages and rejecting all Sibanye offers. Amcu was not immediately available for comment. (ANA)