JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Government, business and organised labour have joined forces to aid South Africa’s beleaguered platinum industry, which is beset by low prices, high costs and serious potential job losses.
The move is reflective of the new spirit of collaboration embodied in the Mining Industry Growth and Development Task Team (Migdett), the joint venture partnership between the three critical components of the industry set up in 2010.
Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu met on Monday with Migdett principals and South African platinum producers in what was described as “a frank and open discussion on the challenges facing South Africa’s platinum industry”.
The meeting resulted in all parties agreeing on a process to be put in place for the short-, medium- and long-term benefit of an industry that has been ravaged by union violence and controversial safety stoppages.
“For international observers South Africa is clearly at an economic crossroads,” says Eunomix executive director Claude Baissac.
The action of two relatively small platinum miners, Aquarius Platinum and Eastern Platinum, to suspend production and halt project development have been the shrill call to action in an industry where more widespread production cutbacks are anticipated.
Shabangu has undertaken to convene a meeting “soon”, at which the task team must report back to Migdett.
Government, business and labour have agreed to engage on ideas in order to enrich the work of the task team.
Among concepts being proposed are training rather than retrenchment during cutbacks, in order to deal with the issue of worker productivity and minimise unemployment.
Another call is that financial provision be made, in future, for the cyclical nature of the mining business in order to cushion the severity of the downturns.
The industry will also draw on the experience of South Africa's gold-mining industry during its devastating 1996 downturn, when the gold price fell to as low as $250/oz.