South African Gold Mine Job Cuts Widen With 16,000 at Risk – by Kevin Crowley and Paul Burkhardt (Bloomberg News – August 3, 2017)

More than one in 10 gold mining jobs in South Africa may disappear after Sibanye Gold Ltd. announced it’s joining AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. in looking to close unprofitable shafts to stem losses.

Sibanye may cut 7,400 jobs as it prepares to close its Cooke and Beatrix West operations, which account for about 16 percent of its planned gold production, the Westonaria, South Africa-based company said Thursday in a statement. Added to AngloGold’s planned 8,500 job cuts, that means about 14 percent of the country’s gold-mine workers are at risk.

South Africa produced more gold than any other country for a century until 2007, but depleted reserves and rising costs have meant production and jobs have tumbled since the industry’s heydays of the 1970s and 1980s. The country’s aging gold mines are the deepest in the world and generally rely on labor-intensive, low-tech extraction methods.

Even so, precious metals are still South Africa’s biggest export and the mines provide employment to low-skilled workers in areas with few alternatives. The country entered a recession earlier this year and unemployment stands at 28 percent.

Like AngloGold, Sibanye said it took the decision after numerous unsuccessful attempts to contain losses at the affected operations and will explore all options, including selling the assets, before closing them.

For the rest of this article: