Sibanye ponders selling mines

Johannesburg - One of the biggest gold producers in the country, Sibanye Stillwater, is considering selling some of its operations as part of various proposals made by the majority trade union at two of its units most affected by the looming retrenchments announced last month.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has tabled a proposal to Sibanye, which is meant to minimise the number of retrenchments.

Following a series of meetings between the parties, Sibanye is set to announce tomorrow whether it will take up any of the options tabled by the union.

According to Kenneth Buda, NUM’s mining coordinator, the union met with Sibanye officials on Thursday and Sibanye agreed to consider the three options it presented as part of its proposal.

The NUM’s three options were:

  • That the company sell unproductive mines instead of placing them on care and maintenance and retrenching almost 7 400 employees, as announced by the company almost two months ago;
  • That some workers be transferred to other operations at Sibanye; and
  • That some workers be considered for reskilling and retraining to transfer them to other sections of the mine.

“The company will get back to us on Monday because that is the last day of the 60-day consultation period,” Buda said.

“We hope that they consider our proposal as it will minimise the retrenchment.”

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted confirmed that the company was considering the proposal and would announce its decision soon.

The company was set to place its Beatrix West operation, which has about 3 500 workers, and its Rand Uranium operation, with about 2 500 workers, under care and maintenance – while a few hundred more workers could lose their jobs at other operations.

In its initial announcement on the matter, Sibanye said it was restructuring some of its gold operations because of ongoing losses experienced at its Beatrix West and Cooke plants.

The statement read: “Losses experienced at these operations negatively affect group cash flow, as well as the sustainability and economic viability of other operations in the Southern Africa region – in this way, posing a threat to more sustainable employment across the region.

“Since listing in 2013, Sibanye has steadily grown as an employer from 37 700 employees four years ago to becoming one of the largest employers in the South African mining industry with 58 000 permanent employees.

“Approximately 7 400 Sibanye employees at all levels may be affected as a result of the proposed restructuring.

“Through the section 189A consultations, the company and affected stakeholders will consider alternatives to potential closure of the operations in an attempt to avoid or reduce retrenchments.”

The last major retrenchment that Sibanye undertook was last year, at its Cooke 4 mine.

Recently, another major gold producer, AngloGold Ashanti, also opted to sell off its Kopanang mine after initially announcing it would shut it down and retrench 4 000 workers.

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