JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Government must play a role in limiting large-scale retrenchment in the platinum sector by potentially incentivising companies to curb job loss.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has objected strongly to the retrenchment plans of Impala Platinum in particular and Royal Bafokeng Platinum CEO Steve Phiri, who is also VP of the Minerals Council South Africa, has urged industry and government to assist in finding mutually beneficial outcomes, one of which could potentially include a halt to large-scale retrenchment being balanced by the companies receiving some form of tax relief to retain personnel. Lower pay for fewer working hours could also be proposed. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“I’m just giving you a few examples of what could be done. But government must come in and offer a solution and let companies go back and work on their models to see how it could work to reduce costs.
“I think there are many solutions that could be found, but government must come in and play a role in assisting the industry in finding those solutions,” Phiri urged.
RBPlat is a 50.5% black-owned, controlled and operated midtier platinum group metals (PGMs) producer, which listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) nearly eight years ago.
It is the only community-owned company to list on the JSE, with benefits from ownership flowing to the 350 000-strong Bafokeng community in the form of social and economic development.
RBPlat originated from the Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine Joint Venture between itself and the Anglo American Platinum company.
It is in a competitive position on the industry cost curve and its independent board is collectively committed to ethical leadership. More than half of the board is made up of previously disadvantaged South Africans and 36% of its board members are women.
Phiri also reiterated his call for government to refrain from forcing empowerment transactions on companies but encouraging them to transform in the same cordial manner that characterised the development of RBPlat.
“Transactions that are forced on to people fail. I can count so many of them that fail because people were ticking the box,” he said
He is hopeful of a better lot for South Africa’s mining industry against the background of the close contact it has with the current Minister.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times the industry has met him, either as individual companies or as Minerals Council South Africa, whereas for the entire year of 2017, we never met the previous Minister.
“That shows the commitment of the man to make sure that all the stakeholders are brought together under one roof to find common solutions. We’ll battle to do that, it’s natural. If we meet and just agree, there’s something wrong with someone who just agrees and does not have a standpoint.
“With this Minister, what you see is what you get. There is genuineness. He might be so wrong in many things, but at least he’s genuine.
“We need to find solutions before retrenchments become inevitable and it is a question of what balancing act you play in the circumstances.
“I understand the Minister completely. The Minister is a politician and he’s got the interests of his constituents at heart, which, among others, are those mineworkers.
But equally speaking, Impala Platinum CEO Nico Muller has got a constituency, "all the stakeholders, including the shareholders themselves, and is presiding over a company that is loss-making in many instances and what does he do?
“I think there are many solutions that could happen, but government must come in and play a role in assisting the industry in finding those solutions,” Phiri told Mining Weekly Online.
LOW PLATINUM PRICE
All PGMs miners are stricken by the very low platinum price and anti-diesel sentiment in Europe, which is threatening jobs in South Africa.
“We’re trying to change sentiment. Things get worse quickly and better slowly, that’s the nature of this, but we are doing this through the International Platinum Association. We’ve got a diesel alliance in Europe consisting of the producers, fabricators, automotive manufacturers and governments in order to address the diesel issue,” he said.
While some diesel cars were excessive nitrogen oxide emitters, some petrol cars were excessive carbon dioxide emitters. particularly the petroleum cars, “so you need to balance that”.
“The technology is forever improving, and Euro 6c and Euro 6d are proving to be success stories at this stage,” he said.
Euro 6 is the sixth incarnation of the European Union directive to reduce harmful pollutants from vehicle exhausts. The aim of Euro 6 is to reduce levels of harmful car and van exhaust emissions, both in diesel and petrol cars.
“Certain diesel cars are good and we need to start advertising that. Technology is also advancing to do a retrofit of Euro 5 so that it can comply with the 80 milligrams per kilometre as regulated by the European Union from 2021.
“We’re moving in a better direction; we may not see the results in the short-term, but medium- to long-term that result will show,” he forecast.