The announcement by Anglo American that it is cutting 14 000 jobs from its platinum mines is a consequence of the toxic combination of a government that does not understand the economic realities of the mining industry, and trade unions more interested in their own power and money than the jobs of their members.
Government mining and labour policy has a long record of driving away mining jobs. A thicket of badly enforced, unclear regulation has seen mining investment drop, along with job numbers and the amount of money paid in tax to the fiscus. While this has happened government has continually battered the industry, threatening new taxes and ever-rising costs. It believes its own ideological myth that mines are endlessly profitable, no matter the economic conditions or legislative framework.
Simultaneously, mining unions have been playing a high-stakes game to secure majority membership at mines, which brings them massive financial benefits and political clout. Unions have shown no scruples in using violence to secure their positions. Their apparent gains, however, are generally detrimental to growth because investors are put off, and to workers who face losing their jobs.
The DA will be proposing a number of changes to the recently tabled amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. These involve a repeal of the imposition of limits on raw mineral exports and scrapping of a so-called super tax. We will also continue to call for changes to labour legislation which encourage greater reflection of real workers' interests. Government policy on mining should be aimed at maximising employment and revenue for the fiscus.
Every one of those miners who is losing their livelihood has the right to ask government and the unions to explain why they must bear the burden of the fecklessness of the tripartite alliance. The platinum industry is just the most visible casualty of this toxic mix. If the government does not change course now, these workers and their families will simply be the first of many to lose their livelihoods
James Lorimer, Shadow Minister of Mining