Platinum: What do you mean there’s no crisis, Mantashe?
Minister should know that more than half of all platinum mines are unprofitable and jobs are at risk
For Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to publicly proclaim there is no crisis in the South African platinum sector – no matter what he might say behind closed doors – is nothing short of astonishing.
A cursory glance at the financials of the world’s second and third largest platinum miners’ results would shoot down in flames Mantashe’s contention made in his opening address at Tuesday’s inaugural Joburg Indaba Platinum conference. There is something incredibly wrong with the industry where more than half of its mines are unprofitable. Northam CEO Paul Dunne says a quarter of SA’s annual output of four million ounces costs producers R5-billion.The fact that speaker after speaker at the conference subsequently flagged the dismal state the industry was in also underscored just how wrong Mantashe was in making the assertion.
Conference chairperson and organiser Bernard Swanepoel, the former CEO of Harmony Gold, said the industry, labour and the Department of Mineral Resources established the gold crisis committee in the late 1990s at a time when the industry was in far less distress than the platinum sector finds itself in now.
Mantashe said problems in the platinum industry stemmed from poor relations with labour and communities. This is simplistic. While it may feed into what ails the industry, there are far broader and more complex issues at play and the government has to act with platinum miners to save jobs and avoid further ugly community unrest on the platinum belt.