Anglo ‘fully behind SA platinum’

6 February 2013

Anglo American and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) are “totally committed to ensuring a sustainable platinum business for the future – for the benefit of all stakeholders,” outgoing Anglo CEO Cynthia Carroll said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 2013 Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, Carroll referred to the South African government as partners, saying a “defining context for the relationship between Anglo American and its partners in the months ahead will clearly be the consultation process in relation to our platinum restructuring proposals”.

While a conference platform was not the place to conduct such consultation, she wished to “make the position clear” on a topic that had attracted so much media coverage.

“The critical starting point is that the boards of Anglo American and Anglo American Platinum are totally committed to ensuring a sustainable platinum business for the future – for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

It was a business in which Anglo planned to invest R100-billion over the next decade.

‘This is an industry in crisis’

“But to do that we must make the changes necessary to make the business sustainable. We need to recognise and tackle the enormous economic challenges the platinum sector faces. This is an industry in crisis.”

Demand for platinum had dropped, and there was no sign of respite in the near-term future. At the same time, labour, energy costs, and other input costs had continued to rise relentlessly.

“As a result, margins have been squeezed dramatically and the sector has not been earning adequate returns. This is an unsustainable position. ”

On Monday, Amplats, the world’s largest platinum producer, reported a headline loss of R1.47-billion for 2012, a fall of 141 percent from the year before. It also announced that it would not be paying a dividend.

The loss has been attributed to, among other things, the unprotected wage strikes that rocked the company’s South African mines last year.

Restructuring ‘a necessity’

Amplats has announced plans to retrench 14 000 workers, but recently postponed these in order to holds talks with government and labour.

Carroll said that Amplats had to be restructured to make it viable for the future – and to protect over 45 000 jobs. The question of how to restructure was one that required consultation with all stakeholders.

“As you know, we have made our proposals public – as we are required to do as a listed company.

“We are targeting to create at least as many jobs as the 14 000 that may be affected by the restructuring. And that is on top of a target to re-deploy 9 000 of the employees who may be affected.”

‘Totally serious’ about creating jobs

Carroll said Anglo was “totally serious” in its intent to create jobs.

“We will provide high-quality training, as soon as it is needed, to enable employees to benefit from the re-deployment (sic) and new job opportunities we will create.”

She said restructuring was always painful and difficult.

“We value the opportunity to engage with our partners. Over the next 60 days, we will work collaboratively with the Department of Mineral Resources and the trade unions to explore the way forward.

“And after that, the formal Section 189 consultation will resume for the following 60 days.

“In addition, we will continue to be active participants in the MIGDETT [the mining growth, development and employment task team] discussions about the challenges facing the platinum sector as a whole.

“These are all important processes, which we are approaching with good faith and with serious intent,” Carroll said.