Hundreds more local jobs at risk

2009-06-01 00:00

A FURTHER 170 to 200 local jobs are on the line as a result of the recession, which has hit the mining and metals industry particularly hard.

The chief executive of ARM Ferrous, Jan Steenkamp, told The Witness that the company is engaged in discussions with unions about the propsect of hefty job losses (among other issues) at Assmang’s ferromanganese smelter in Cato Ridge.

African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) is part owner of the factory, which employs between 650 and 700 people.

The facility was in the spotlight in February last year following an explosion which claimed the lives of seven people.

Steenkamp said a decision about possible job losses is expected to be made in about two weeks.

“It is naive to think that we’ll keep our current staff numbers … with only three furnaces running,” he said.

However, he stressed that a final decision has yet to be taken, and the company is working closely with unions to agree on an acceptable plan.

The company initially put in place a moratorium on hiring additional staff and gave notice to some employees on short-term contracts.

Steenkamp said the company has made significant cutbacks in production at the local operation, which consists of six high-carbon ferromanganese furnaces.

Product prices and volumes have plummetted as a result of the global economic crisis.

The low levels of carbon steel production in most of the major markets has forced Assmang to run at 40% to 60% capacity.

Steenkamp said the demand for high-carbon ferromanganese products has dropped significantly in the United States and Europe.

Demand in China is still healthy, but Steenkamp noted that this market is almost over-supplied.

kavith@witness.co.za

 

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