South Africa strives to save jobs at under-fire mines – by Zandi Shabalala (Reuters U.S. – August 5, 2015)

PRETORIA – South Africa’s mining ministry held talks with companies and unions over planned job cuts on Wednesday, as President Jacob Zuma’s government frets over high unemployment ahead of key elections next year.

The mining industry, which contributes around 7 percent to Africa’s most developed economy, is struggling with sinking commodity prices, rising costs and labor unrest.

“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs and none of us should leave this place without committing something to the table,” mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi told reporters.

Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) heads into local elections next year with its main rival the Democratic Alliance (DA) targeting wins in key metropolitan areas, including Gauteng, home to economic hub Johannesburg.

The DA will target the ANC on its inability to reduce stubbornly high unemployment, which officially stands at 25 percent but some experts believe is much higher.

Ramatlhodi on Tuesday ordered Glencore to suspend operations at its 10 million tonne-a-year Optimum coal mine because the mining group hadn’t followed legal procedure in its plan to cut 380 jobs at the mine.

Glencore has said it complied with all legal requirements relating to job cuts.

The DA described the suspension at Optimum as a “panic move” that will make jobs losses worse.

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