The South African Federation of Trade Unions is angered at the latest retrenchments announced by Pan African Resources which will destroy 1722 out of 1812 jobs at the 8 shaft at their Evander mine in Mpumalanga when they shut it down at the end of May.
This comes just a week after Lonmin’s announcement that it is cutting 12,600 jobs as it closes old mines, and Sibanye-Stillwater’s closure of three Cooke shafts at the end of 2017 at the cost of 3,300 jobs.
Impala Platinum (Implats) is also accelerating the closure of old mines which is bound to lead to hundreds more lost jobs and Harmony plans to close a number of its older mines in the next few years.
The jobless bloodbath is not only continuing but accelerating, and bringing misery to thousands more workers, their families and their communities.
The gold industry has already lost 68 000 jobs over the last thirteen years, with 4,000 of those jobs lost in just the past two years. Output from gold mines has plummeted from 1,000 tonnes in 1970, when SA was the world leader in gold production, to 138 tonnes in 2017, putting in sixth place in the world.
The mining sector as a whole has lost 30,000 jobs since 2014 and this is rising all the time in 2018.
SAFTU rejects PanAfrican Resources’ excuse that they are forced to fire workers because of the low gold price. This typifies the mining monopolies’ short-term approach to the industry, which is dictated solely by the need to sustain their high profit levels, rather than the long-term future of the industry.
Prices on the world market are constantly changing, which inevitably affects profits in the short term. Falling prices cannot therefore be an excuse to close mines; it is an industry which cannot be easily revived when prices go up again, and closures like these will therefore lead to permanent damage to the whole future of this key sector of the South Africa’s economy.
It also adds to the huge problem of the pollution of the land beneath the closed mines which is causing irreparable damage to the environment.
All these problems strengthen SAFTU’s call for the nationalisation of the mining industry, under democratic control by the workers and communities, in line with the Freedom Charter’s call for “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and the monopoly industry to be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”.
Such an important and strategic part of the economy cannot be left in the hands of private speculators who are solely looking for quick profits regardless of any concern for the workers, local communities and the long-term future of the country’s economy.
The industry is a nation asset and it must be modernised so that it can play a central role within a socialist economy strategy to re-industrialise and transform the economy, create jobs, speed up growth and generate wealth to lift all South Africans out of poverty.