Gold Fields: Job losses not cast in stone

Potential job losses due to the energy crisis are not cast in stone, Gold Fields CEO Ian Cockerill said in a conference call on Monday.

Earlier, the mining company announced that 6 900 jobs were at risk because of Eskom’s power rationing.

“We’re working closely with the unions to calculate potential losses. There is nothing cast in stone. We might be able to reduce the impact,” Cockerill said.

Terence Goodlace, Gold Fields executive vice-president: head of South African operations, said that calculations of job losses had been based on what Eskom had told the mines.

According to the energy parastatal, local mines will have to operate at 90% of their normal power supply—and this, it, will last for the next five years.

At present, the mining company said it is controlling its average power usage to 540MW—down from the historical average of 601MW.

To achieve the 10% reduction in electricity consumption imposed by Eskom, Gold Fields said that the number six and seven shafts as well as the nine shaft depth-extension project at Driefontein, and the number three and eight shafts at Kloof Gold Mine, will be mothballed, closed or scaled back.

This will affect about 4 900 employees at these two mines.

South Deep Gold Mine will be restructured as a result of the depletion of the Ventersdorp Contact Reef horizon above 95-level and a new strategy put in place which focuses primarily on the completion of the twin shaft infrastructure and development capital programmes.

“This, too, is unfortunately compounded by the power rationing. The total number of South Deep employees potentially affected is approximately 2 000,” Gold Fields said.

However, Goodlace said that Gold Fields, rather than cut jobs, will consider “any alternatives”.

These alternatives include early retirement, voluntary retrenchments, contractor replacement and redeployment elsewhere in the group.

Gold Fields emphasised in its conference call that no workers have yet lost their jobs.

“Everyone is still on the mines. Some contracting companies have been curtailed but not Gold Fields employees,” Goodlace said.

“We will go through due process ... the National Union of Mineworkers is entitled to strike—but they cannot yet go on strike,” Goodlace said.

Production at Gold Fields’s Beatrix Gold Mine is unlikely to be affected by the reduction in power supply as it is a relatively shallow mine.

“This mine is less energy-intensive than the deeper Driefontein and Kloof operations.”

Gold Fields said it is to spend about R200-million on additional emergency power to safeguard employees in the case of a total blackout.

The company’s gold production in South Africa for the current quarter is forecast to decline by between 20% and 25% against the December quarter, due to the total suspension of production for one full week due to power constraints, continued power rationing and the seasonal impact of the Christmas break.—Sapa

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