PRETORIA-- The South African government will discuss with the unions to challenge the decision by Impala Platinum (Implats) to retrench 13,000 workers as it scales back its operations in North West Province, says Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.

Speaking to the media here over the weekend, Mantashe labelled the move by Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats), the world's second biggest producer of platinum, as an old tactic used to scare workers in order to reduce jobs.

He has also accused Implats of ignoring his proposal to allow smaller operators to take over shafts which the company regards as not profitable to operate.

You put up a big number so that the labour movement come to you belly-crawling and beg so that you retrench 8,000 and you're seemed to have saved 5,000 (jobs). It's an old tactic," Mantashe said.

"We are going to have a meeting with labour; we want to compare notes with them. The industry comes to us without exhausting all discussion; they want to issue section 189 for labour, we think it's unethical [and it] cannot [be] allowed to happen."

Impala has announced that it will cut 13 000 jobs and close five of its 11 shafts in the platinum belt around Rustenburg in North West Province. The planned move comes after another leading platinum producer, Lonmin Plc, laid off 2,500 workers.

While it has already been projected that mining houses may cut jobs because of plummeting metal prices and low production, the 13,000 jobs figure was never expected. Mantashe described the announcement as careless, saying Impala is acting in bad faith, and prioritising profit over any other thing.

The Rustenburg municipality, whose economy relies mainly on mining, has embarked on plans to diversify the local economy. The Rustenburg Chamber of Commerce says it has been anticipating this and reveals that it is looking at ways to help absorb the effects of retrenchments.


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