The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will “try to avoid” what they see as a “calamity” as 2 600 workers at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine face retrenchment.
The labour union was reacting to Kumba Iron Ore’s announcement that the mining house has commenced with a consultation process in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, which will lay-off approximately 2 633 employees at the Sishen mine in Kimberly, Northern Cape, and affect 1 300 contractors.
Acting NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said the union had received the Section 189 notice and that it would engage Kumba to try to avoid these retrenchments.
“We are going to officially meet with the company and try to come up with avoidance measures against these retrenchments,” said Mammburu.
“We cannot afford to let so many people lose their jobs in Kuruman, where mining employs the majority of the people. The community will be negatively affected. This is a disaster. It’s a calamity.”
In a statement on Thursday, Kumba Iron Ore said it plans to reconfigure its Sishen mine, the largest iron ore operation in Africa. The plan will significantly reduce mining and production activities to a smaller, more focused operation.
It will exclude areas with high strip ratios, resulting in less waste needing to be mined as well as a decreased level of iron ore production.
The company said restructuring was necessitated by sharply lower iron ore prices and increased capital costs and operating expenses – due to the current high waste stripping requirements, the company said.
Norman Mbazima, CEO of Kumba, said the mine was mindful of the sensitivity that “this situation demands, and are committed to supporting all employees at Sishen, as they have done throughout the other restructuring processes” at Kumba.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision but, after exhausting all other avenues and doing all we could have done to reduce costs, we have no choice but to take more significant steps to preserve the viability of the mine. We aim to ensure that our people are treated with the same care and respect throughout this difficult process,” said Mbazima.