Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman set the stage for what could be a bruising encounter with the unions negotiating wage increases at its gold mines. Froneman said one of the reasons for the dismal state of SA’s gold mining industry was the repeated capitulation of companies in granting above-inflation wage increases during wage talks. While this trend is understandable, given the history of the mining sector in exploiting workers and the need to correct the injustices of the past by in part bumping up wages to a tough and dangerous job, it has come with consequences. SA’s gold mines are deep, labour intensive and increasingly less productive, with falling grades, outputs and soaring costs. With the cost of labour making up half or more than half of the costs of producing gold, one of the few levers left to pull in correcting the cost-to-revenue balance is the reduction in labour. The numbers express this more clearly than any number of words can: employment in SA’s gold sector ha...

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