The world's largest platinum producer is to cut 14,000 jobs in South Africa just months after violent mining strikes killed dozens of people.
Anglo American Platinum said a review found that four mine shafts needed to be closed and one mine sold because of unprofitable operations. The government's minister of mines and the National Union of Mineworkers, NUM, expressed surprise and shock at the announcement.
"The NUM will engage the company in a bid to save these jobs and appeals on workers to work together to safeguard their own jobs," said NUM general secretary Frans Baleni.
A total of 46 people were killed during a six-week period of violent strikes at Lonmin's platinum mine last year in Marikana, South Africa, when miners demanded higher wages. In the most shocking incident, police fired into a crowd of striking miners near the Marikana mine on August 16, killing 34 people.
The labour unrest spread in South Africa, and Anglo American Platinum, known locally as Amplats, saw a more than eight-week strike that crippled the giant at its operation in Rustenburg, 60 miles from Johannesburg. The company had fired 12,000 workers and then agreed to reinstate them in October, although the miners did not return to work until November.
Amplats said that 13,000 of the jobs it wants to cut are in the Rustenburg region.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said that miners and their families would be hugely affected by the cuts. She cast doubt on a plan by Anglo American Platinum to create new jobs for those cut from the workforce.
"You can't train at the tail end of everything," she said. "Those skills are not created in a sustainable way."
Anglo American Platinum said it takes its social responsibilities to its laid-off workforce seriously and would try to create 14,000 new jobs focused on housing, infrastructure and small business development.
The mining industry is a huge part of the economy in South Africa, which is the world's largest producer of platinum, gold and chromium. Most mine workers who carry out manual labour are black. The South African Institute of Race Relations says that the unemployment rate for black South Africans was nearly 41% in 2012, while the corresponding rate for white South Africans was 7.5%.