More than 5,000 mining jobs to be lost in Marikana restructuring

Sibanye-Stillwater will lay off more than 5,000 workers at its Marikana mine.
Sibanye-Stillwater will lay off more than 5,000 workers at its Marikana mine.
Image: Sibanye Mines

Sibanye-Stillwater, formerly Lonmin, has announced its decision to lay off more than 5,000 workers as it restructures its Marikana mine in the North West.

The platinum mine is the site of the infamous Marikana massacre in 2012, where 34 striking miners were gunned down by police firing live ammunition.

The takeover by Sibanye-Stillwater earlier this year was deemed the only possible means of keeping the embattled mine afloat. But now Sibanye-Stillwater management will again have to make tough choices to keep the lights on.

"Approximately 5,270 jobs [3,904 employees and 1,366 contractors] are expected to be lost due to the restructuring," said spokesperson James Wellsted.

"As a result of an improved PGM [platinum-group metals] commodity price environment, the amount of job reductions is significantly less than previously communicated by Lonmin in 2017," he said. 

The company also said it would cease operations at certain mines that had "reached the end of their economic reserve lives" during the restructuring of the company. 

More than 26,000 staff were retained after the Lonmin takeover. 

Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, said the decisions being made would limit job losses.

“The proposed restructuring is contemplated to ensure the sustainability of the Marikana operation, which is not a going concern as an independent entity," he said. "While the review process concluded that certain shafts - most of which were at the end of their operating lives - would be affected, other shafts which had previously been at risk ... will continue to operate, thereby lessening potential job losses."

He said that, overall, the outcome would be a more sustainable business that would be able to secure employment for the majority of the Marikana workforce for a much longer period.

Laid-off workers will fear for their return to the job market, with the unemployment rate  at an 11-year high of 29%. Mineworkers were the biggest victims of job cuts over the past quarter. 

In August, the Sowetan reported that a wage increase offer of R300 for workers was rejected, with mining union Amcu calling the offer a "slap in the face".

"We feel that Sibanye is trying to provoke us into a strike," said Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa at the time.

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