Johannesburg – South Africa’s mining industry has shed more than 35,000 jobs in two years as it has been battered by labour unrest, rising costs and weak commodity prices.
The scale of the job losses — equivalent to one out of 14 workers in the sector — indicates how the labour unrest that has plagued the industry since the police shooting of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012 has accelerated restructuring in the sector.
Mining is one of the biggest private sector employers in South Africa and the new data from the Chamber of Mines — seen by the Financial Times — provide the first detailed analysis of the extent of job losses since the shooting.
The majority of the losses between 2012 and last year occurred in gold and platinum, with those sectors’ workforces shrinking by about 23,100 and 10,800 respectively, according to the chamber. These amount to labour reductions of 16 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
A further 1,600 jobs — or 7 per cent of the workforce — have been cut in iron ore mining between 2012 and last year.
“Work stoppages, which reduce mining volumes, reduce profitability,” said Monique Mathys, economist at the chamber. “Reduced profitability results in companies needing to restructure, and to look at modernisation options that improve profitability and ensure sustainability of the operations.”
Ngoako Ramatlhodi, South Africa’s mines minister, said this month that the government was “alarmed at the rate at which retrenchments have been taking place in the industry”.
South Africa hosts large operations of groups such as Anglo American, Glencore and AngloGold Ashanti, and is endowed with a wide range of mineral resources ranging from coal to manganese.
It is home to about 80 per cent of the world’s proven platinum reserves and in the 1970s it accounted for more than two-thirds of the planet’s gold production.
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