Hundreds Jobless … As mining companies scale down

 

Windhoek –Rio Tinto Plc’s Rössing Uranium Ltd says output of the metal at the Namibian mine will fall to “slightly less” than 2 000 metric tons in 2014 from 2 409 metric tons in 2013, as it scales down production and institute further job cuts to remain operational.

Rössing will cut 265 jobs from its 1 168 workforce and has scaled down production to 50 percent, managing director Werner Duvenhage said during a teleconference this week. Rössing laid off 276 workers in 2012, as part of its cost-cutting measures.

The cost-cutting measures will save up to R1 billion but still leaves a shortfall of about R90 million, Duvenhage said.

“We have to keep company operating to avoid care and maintenance or complete closure,” he said.

“This leaves the mine with no option but to reduce its workforce which will affect about 265 roles, bringing the number of employees to around 930 from the current 1 168,” Duvenhage said.

A new operating model to come into force in July, will cut the operating cycle to five days from seven days, Duvenhage said.

In addition to the five-day operating cycle, the company would also introduce a three-panel shift pattern, revised mining and milling targets, annual leave plans to reduce impact of public holidays, and a “number of other measures to improve efficiency and reduce costs sustainably”.

A processing plant, which is currently shut down for repairs which will last a month, will resume production in July, Duvenhage said.

Since January 2014, Rössing has scaled down production to 50 percent and would in future maintain production levels which will enable the company to ‘satisfy long term sales contracts’.

“We are significantly downgrading production targets, for this year, output will be slightly below 2 000 metric tons,” Duvenhage said.

Rössing’s operations are suffering from lower grades and a slump in demand for the metal, used in nuclear power stations, which weakened around the world after Japan’s Fukushima atomic meltdown in 2011.

In March 2011 an earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power plant and the disaster led to Japan suspending its fleet of reactors.

Rössing plans to “ramp up production after 2017” and will likely return to full production between 2018 and 2019, Duvenhage said.

“We have to undertake these measures to reposition the operation for the future as we still believe strongly in the future of uranium,” he said.

 

 Rosh Pinah Cuts Jobs

 

Just this past week, Rosh Pinah zinc and lead mine, a unit of Glencore Xstrata Plc laid off 124 full time employees, in measures which spilled into the High Court of Namibia as unions futile sought to bar the company from retrenching.

“The management of Rosh Pinah Zinc Corporation has announced changes that aim to address significant economic pressures. The changes, affecting approximately 124 full time employees, are part of an ongoing review of operations,” a Glencore spokesperson said in a statement. Rosh Pinah has roped in the Chamber of Mines to help secure new employment for the affected workers.

“We sympathise and understand that this maybe be a difficult time for some our employees and their families.

“As a result, we have engaged the chamber of mines to coordinate the possible appointment at other mines within Namibia,” the spokesperson said.

Rosh Pinah, an underground mine situated 800 kilometres south of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, employ 600 permanent employees and about 138 contractors and temporary workers.

The mine produced 113 818 tonnes of zinc concentrates in 2013, a 20 percent increase on the previous year’s output, the chamber of mines said in its 2013 annual report. Output for lead also went up 17.5 percent to 20 551 tonnes.

A bid by the Mineworkers Union of Namibia to reverse the retrenchment through an urgent court interdict hit a brick wall after High Court Judge Shafimana Uitele refused to grant the order and struck the application off the roll.

The union would consider “starting afresh by going through the labour court to seek reinstatement” of the retrenched workers, MUN general secretary Ebben Zarondo said in an interview.

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