Amplats loss-making shafts labour militancy

Amplats, an Anglo American unit which unveiled interim results that as expected showed an almost 80% fall in earnings, confirmed it experienced a brief strike last week around its Rustenburg operations as inter-union rivalry spreads through the platinum belt.

Acting chief executive Bongani Nqwababa said the strike was limited and was related to recruiting, but said Amplats did not yet recognise the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) which is locked in a turf war with the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Nqwababa, who stepped in last Thursday when Neville Nicolau stood down after the company flagged its earnings fall, said in a results presentation he would not "tolerate unprofitable ounces", a clear a signal the group could move to close loss-making shafts – a situation sure to spark more labour strife.

Separately Aquarius Platinum warned of a winter of labour discontent in coming months.

"Unfortunately, the likelihood of industrial action over the South African winter is high, largely as a result of inter-union rivalries," Aquarius said in a production update.


The company also said it had been hit by "intermittent unlawful industrial action" at one of four shafts at its Kroondal operation in July.

Industrial action in South Africa this year has often been caused by workers switching allegiance to AMCU from the NUM and then embarking on illegal strikes for better wages.

Such action earlier this year lead to a six-week shutdown of the world's largest platinum mine, run by Impala Platinum.

Sources close to AMCU said the action last week was sparked by workers seeking to quit the NUM to join AMCU.

The stakes are high in the industry and the economy as a whole, as food price pressures begin eating into the household incomes of lower-wage workers, a scenario that will push wage demands higher at a time when South Africa's platinum sector is barely profitable.

The platinum market was not impressed by the possibility of production cuts, with the spot price trading 1.2% lower at $1 387.00 an ounce.

Global demand for the key metal used to make emissions-cutting catalytic converters in automobiles has been stubbornly weak.

Amplats cut its 2012 production target slightly to between 2.4-million and 2.5-million ounces and said this would likely be its output level for up to three years.

"We anticipate that this would leave the market in balance, increasing the chance of a deficit, which should increase prices," Nqwababa said.

Anglo is reviewing its operations. Aquarius, which has put two of its operations on "care and maintenance" – industry speak for a temporary closure of production – said it hoped others would follow suit.

Aquarius shares were down almost 7% in London after earlier hitting a 12-year low, while Amplats was down almost 4% in Johannesburg. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Lest we forget: Marikana’s fallen

We must remember the 44 people killed and 78 injured in main part to prevent such actions being repeated

Kingdom of heaven’ is 47% increase for platinum miners

Amcu mulls widespread industrial action

Mine shakes homes and dreams

Residents say the world’s largest open-cast platinum mine on their doorstep is killing them; mine management disagrees

Nersa increase places 90 000 mining jobs at risk

Initially, when Eskom made its tariff application, it was estimated it would cause 150 000 job losses while hastening the demise of the gold sector

Sibanye deaths cloud Lonmin deal

There would be major ramifications if the threats over the mine’s recent safety record scupper the takeover

Mine’s safety record fatality-free for five years — until February

Besides Sibanye’s internal investigations, it has held two safety summits and has formed a task team to tackle the causes of the fatalities
Advertising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Fifteen witnesses for vice-chancellor probe

Sefako Makgatho University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mbati had interdicted parliament last month from continuing with the inquiry

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

Audi Q8: Perfectly cool

The Audi Q8 is designed to be the king in the elite SUV class. But is it a victim of its own success?

KZN officials cash in on ‘danger pay for Covid-19’

Leadership failures at Umdoni local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal have caused a ‘very unhappy’ ANC PEC to fire the mayor and chief whip
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday