The mining industry will retrench thousands‚ possibly as many as 10‚000 people or more in the first quarter of next year‚ says Chamber of Mines chief executive Bheki Sibiya.
Addressing the Cape Town Press Club on Friday (23 November)‚ Sibiya described the mining industry as literally being between a rock and a hard place.
"One the one hand we have a lot of pressure about wages and employment‚ and on the other‚ shareholders who need a reasonable return‚" he said.
According to the Chamber of Mines the South African mining industry employs 500‚000 people directly and another 500‚000 indirectly.
Sibiya singled out the platinum‚ gold and chrome mines as the ones that were most likely to shed workers.
"More than half of the platinum mines are just breaking even‚ if not running at a loss due to poor demand and a lower platinum price.
"The gold sector has to mine deeper and deeper and this is going to incur more costs especially for electricity to pay for the hoisting of men and material. The chrome sector is also facing lower demand and prices‚" he said.
The coal-mining sector‚ Sibiya said‚ was stable for the time being.
Sibiya said the a rescue plan was needed particularly for marginal gold mines that were being forced to mine at depths of up to five kilometres.
Sibiya described the Marikana massacre on August 16‚ as a shameful event for the mining sector‚ but said that the workers themselves were not angels.
"We had 10 people who were murdered before that day...and then another eight killed after‚" he said.
Sibiya bemoaned the fact that the mining industry appeared to be a target for strife from many social forces including unions and politicians and that more should be done to protect the sector as "...it was the crown jewels‚ or the goose that lays the golden egg" for this country.
He said other countries protected their industries that gave them a competitive advantage.
"SA has lost its competitive advantage in the mining sector‚" Sibiya said.
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