April 26, 2017 / 7:14 AM / 3 years ago

South Africa's Implats says low prices, unrest may prompt Marula mine lay-offs

JOHANNESBURG, April 26 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Impala Platinum (Implats) said on Wednesday low prices and social unrest could lead to large-scale job losses at its Marula mine, which has been a flashpoint for labour tensions in the past.

Marula, on the eastern branch of South Africa’s platinum belt, employs around 4,500 people including contractors.

“The ongoing community disruptions and low metal prices have resulted in a further restructuring process at Marula that could result in large-scale job losses at this operation,” Implats said in a statement.

“This is something the business and economy can ill afford, but remains imperative if we are to protect the financial viability of our business and preserve jobs as far as possible,” it said.

Implats’ spokesman Johan Theron said community protests that have often involved violence and road blocks have disrupted production by preventing employees from reaching the shafts.

Outbursts of collective violence, often rooted in poverty and grievances over poor government services – dubbed “service delivery protests” – have become common in South Africa.

Officials from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the majority union at Marula, could not immediately be reached for comment.

AMCU became the dominant union at the Marula mine after a tense wildcat strike in 2014 that saw it dislodge arch-rival the National Union of Mineworkers. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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