PRETORIA– South African Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has called on Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats), the world’s second biggest producer of platinum, to engage government in an effort to look at alternatives to its restructuring plans.

On Thursday, Implats announced restructuring plans which will be implemented over a two-year period. The plans are expected to result in the loss of about 13,000 jobs.

We want to advise Impala to have discussions with us. Thirteen thousand is not a small number. You can’t just walk away as if (it’s) normal. It’s abnormal in an environment with high levels of unemployment. You can’t destroy 13,000 jobs at a go, Mantashe said here Friday.

Impala Rustenburg’s mining footprint in north West Province will, under the restructuring, be reduced from 11 to six operating shafts.

The Minister has described the announcement by Implats as irresponsible and unethical. That announcement undermines the challenge facing society of high levels of unemployment and we cannot ignore that reality because we [can’t] just look at it in rands and cents and think that workers should be relegated into being numbers.” he said.

Workers are not numbers, they are human beings that look after their families. When you take a decision to terminate employment you need to consider it thoroughly and be convinced that there is no alternative. I don’t think Impala has done that.”

Mantashe said he plans to meet with the labour movement to discuss its views on this matter. He also called on the industry to debate how to create more demand for platinum.