Amplats CEO Chris Griffith. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO
Amplats CEO Chris Griffith. Picture: ARNOLD PRONTO

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) dismissed about half of the underground workforce at its Mototolo mine after an unprotected strike over changes to conditions of service.

Amplats, the world’s largest producer of platinum, said the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (Giwusa) had declared a dispute at the Limpopo mine, in which it has full control after buying out the stake held by Glencore.

However, the union alleged that changes Amplats made to the medical aids of those coming from Glencore’s payroll, to bring them in line with its own systems, were a “unilateral change in employees’ conditions of service”.

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Amplats argued the schemes entailed similar benefits.

The union declared a dispute with Mototolo at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on May 9. A day later, Amplats was granted a court interdict preventing the union from striking.

Employees belonging to the union went on strike anyway and have not heeded calls to return to work.

“These requests have been ignored and Amplats has therefore been left with no option but to dismiss about 50% of Mototolo mine’s underground workforce,” Amplats said.

It is believed that about 600 employees were dismissed, but they have until May 21 to appeal the termination of their employment. Amplats employs 25,000 people. The union in question represents about 900 workers .

“The impact on production has been minimal thus far,” the company said, adding that it was “exploring options” to return the mine to full production as soon as possible.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said unlike the five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines, the Mototolo strike was not violent.

Mototolo is by far the smallest mine in Amplats’s suite of SA mines, generating 57,000oz of platinum group metals (PGMs) in the first quarter of 2019. The second smallest in SA is Amandelbult, which produced 193,000oz of PGMs.

While Mototolo is small, it is key to cheaply and quickly opening the unexploited Der Brochen property next door, bringing infrastructure and processing capacity, Amplats CEO Chris Griffith has said.

Amplats said in November 2018 that it had completed the transaction with Glencore to buy its 40.2% stake in Mototolo for an upfront payment of R900m and monthly payments over the next six years based on the rand price for the basket of metals coming from the mine. The transaction had a net present value of about R1.5bn.

Amplats bought Kagiso Platinum Venture’s 9.8% stake in Mototolo for R267m.