Industry Relations in Mining – Update January 2014
Posted: 01/20/2014 12:00:00 AM EST | 10
We are only a few weeks into the new year and headlines about strikes and new regulations are again in the mining news, all over the world.
New laws and government decisions are poised to have major impacts on certain mining markets. Additionally, mining unions are increasingly defining and influencing relations between mining companies and their employees- most acutely seen in South Africa last year.
The relations in gold and platinum mining in South Africa has not improved following a turbulent 2013. This year is off to a difficult start, as the AMCU the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has mobilised its members to go on strike. The union is fighting for a minimum wage for entry level mine workers of 12500 Rand, which is approximately $1150. Currently the basic entry level wage is R5000, AMCU had withdrawn a settlement offer of 7500 Rand, which is far apart from the R12500 AMCU is asking for. Sector wide industrial action along with coordinated activity at the mine sites continue to have a major effect on platinum mining in South Africa, with global implications as the country produces 80% of the platinum supply worldwide.
Indonesia’s government recently moved to ban the mineral export from Indonesia, the new law is effective as of January 12, 2014. The country is one of the largest exporters of raw minerals and with the new law the government is now trying to push domestic processing of the minerals. The new regulation hoped to create additional jobs in the country and larger profits for the government. Shortly before the legislation was passed, the government gave in to a number of demands from major mining companies and granted significant exceptions to the law. Materials such as copper, iron ore, lead and zinc have now been excluded from the export ban. Negotiations approved the export of certain copper concentrates until 2017, with the export taxes for these minerals will be increased at the same time.
It is hoped that the new law will help more broadly stimulate the mining industry in Indonesia, but it is not sure yet whether this will be the case or not. The decision is likely to cause negative market reaction in the short term, as major American mining companies have failed to make the appropriate investments for processing plants and had to scale down their operations. Nevertheless the Indonesian government is convinced that the Indonesian mining sector will take on this legislation in a few months and see the broader mineral processing markets significantly stimulated.
Looking to Australia, there has been on-going media scrutiny of the New South Wales Coal industry. In December the NSW government warned the two coal companies Cascade Coal and NuCoal, that their mining licenses will be cancelled, if the companies cannot come up with a good reason against this within a month. The New South Wales government had received a recommendation from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to cancel the companies’ licenses because of corruption findings. Both companies are now trying to get the corruption report annulled in saying that the mining projects would benefit the region with creating jobs and bringing in taxes. The following weeks will bring a decision, which will be affecting the two mine sites Doyles Creek and Mount Penny.
Another case where mine workers are acting against their employer is the pay rise sacrifice at Broken Hill’s Perilya Mine. Perilya suggested that employees should sacrifice their annual 4 per cent pay rise in order to save 1.8 million dollars. The employees were asked to vote either in favour of the suggestion or against it. The majority voted against it and doesn’t want to sacrifice their wages.
Whether or not the company will have to make workers redundant to save costs has not been decided, but there aren’t any plans to do so yet and Perilya says they will try to cut costs in other ways such as improving production performance. The reasons that lead to the current situation of the mine are low metal prices and a strong Australian dollar as mine manager David Hume explained.
These issues are most likely only the beginning to as year of difficult relations within the mining industry. If you are interested in reading more about industrial relations in mining, sign up for our weekly newsletter!
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