Jinchuan’s S.African PGM project to cut 75% of workforce amid price rout

By Nelson Banya

(Reuters) – Jinchuan Group International Resources’ South African platinum group metal (PGM) project will cut about 75% of its workforce as it restructures operations amid a sharp decline in metal prices and operational disruptions.

Wesizwe Platinum , 45% owned by the top Chinese miner Jinchuan, said on Monday it was restructuring its Bakubung platinum project as it deals with the impact of the “downturn in the mining industry”, a recent five-week wildcat strike and community unrest over the past two years.

The price for major PGMs platinum and palladium, which are mainly used by automakers to curb emissions, are down about 11% and 40% so far this year, respectively. Demand for palladium has been particularly hit by weakening consumption in China.

Wesizwe has begun mandatory consultations that could result in the loss of 571 jobs at the Bakubung project out of the current workforce of 761 employees, it said in a statement.

The company said continuing without job cuts “would not be reasonable or viable”, and there was a “need to implement measures to improve efficiencies and to ensure that Bakubung is placed on the path of profitability and growth”.

Wesizwe has already stopped overtime and weekend work and is also not renewing fixed-term contracts of non-critical staff, it added.

The company had planned to start production at Bakubung in the second half of 2023, but was delayed by industrial action between July and August. Bakubung was expected to reach 420,000 PGM ounces annually, employing 3,135 workers.

South Africa’s top global PGM miners Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Sibanye Stillwater are all looking to restructure their businesses in response to the metal price decline.

Sibanye last month said its planned restructuring, targeting four loss-making PGM shafts in South Africa, could potentially result in the loss of 4,095 jobs.

Impala on Nov. 7 said it had started voluntary job cuts at its South African operations in a bid to cut costs in the face of falling metal prices.

(Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by Jan Harvey)