Three companies have outlined plans in recent weeks to lay off more than 20,000 employees and shut mines, with the latest, Sibanye Gold, talking of illegal mining, poor productivity and the strong rand as the factors behind its plans to shed about 10,000 jobs.

The local mining industry has lost 70,000 jobs in the past five years, according to the Chamber of Mines. This puts into perspective recently announced job cuts by three companies, signals how distressed the industry is and just how fragile in light of a suspended Mining Charter which would introduce hefty new costs to it.

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