In a bid to restructure operations and reduce costs, Australian metals miner South32 Limited announced earlier this week the laying off of around 500 workers at its Hillside aluminium smelter in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
According to the trade union Solidarity, South32 has begun the process with the government for shedding jobs at the plant, which employs 1,300 individuals at present.
“The company indicated in its request to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that it intends to cut its workforce by 500 jobs,” noted the union’s deputy general secretary Marius Croucamp.
Layoffs are a politically ticklish issue in South Africa, where the national unemployment rate is 27 percent.
In addition to notifying the government, South32 also made workers at the site aware of management’s plans to slim down the workforce.
An unnamed South32 spokesperson declined to elaborate beyond acknowledging the market forces in play.
“The consultation is related to a proposed restructure of the business. The purpose of the proposed restructure is to reduce Hillside’s controllable costs and improve resilience to volatility in commodities markets.”
Overall, South32 reported a strong fiscal picture in result released last week, with most major production numbers level with prior periods, but an overall financial return well into the black.
Job cuts in South Africa has been a recurring theme in recent weeks. Gold miner Sibanye-Stillwater announced layoffs last week, chalking up the desire to lighten overhead by 6,000 workers due to losses at its mines last year, prompting it to do its own corporate restructuring.
Based in Perth, Western Australia, South32 began in 2015 as a spin-off of BHP Billiton. The firm operates mines in Australia and South Africa, and markets aluminium, manganese, silver, zinc, lead, nickel, coking coal, and thermal coal.