Nick Holland, CEO of Gold Fields Limited, attends the 13th International Gold & Silver Symposium in Lima

Gold Fields boss says not resigning after S.Africa minister's rebuke

By Tanisha Heiberg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Gold Fields' chief executive officer Nick Holland said on Thursday he was not considering resigning after mines minister Gwede Mantashe blamed the company's plan to cut jobs at its struggling South African mine on "poor management".

Gold Fields, which posted its interim results on Thursday, said this week it planned to cut 1,100 permanent jobs at the company's last South African asset, South Deep, sending its shares plummeting.

The bullion producer's plans drew scathing comments from Mantashe, a blunt-speaking former trade unionist and senior figure in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

"Gold Fields is sitting on the second biggest gold deposits in a mine in the world," Mantashe told Reuters. "Going for job cuts is the easy way out. The real problem is poor management."

South Deep has faced operational obstacles in a tough geological setting 3 km (2 miles) below the surface and has lost 4 billion rand ($284 million) over the past five years.

The mine west of Johannesburg, which has been beset by problems as the company has tried to mechanise the operation, employs around 3,600 full-time workers and 1,900 contractors.

When asked if he planned to step down, Holland, who has been at the helm of the company since 2008, told Reuters: "No."

"We understand his concern about job losses, obviously the industry is struggling. If we can find other alternatives, we don't close the door entirely, but we can't argue with economics, 3 million rand a day out of the bank is a lot of money," Holland said in an interview.

Holland said on Wednesday the job cuts were a "last-gasp measure".

Unemployment in Africa's most industrialised economy stands at more than 27 percent and job cuts are a hot political issue ahead of national elections next year.

"DEVIANT BEHAVIOUR"

Gold Fields, which unveiled a plan in February 2017 in an attempt to make South Deep mine profitable, is the latest company planning to cut jobs in the mining industry.

Earlier this month Impala Platinum said it would slash its workforce by around a third over two years, amounting to over 13,000 jobs..

Over 12,000 are also on the line over a three year period as precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater seeks to acquire target Lonmin.

Mantashe told Reuters he was engaging both Impala and Gold Fields over the planned lay-offs.

"We want to support them but they come to us after making these announcements. It is deviant behaviour," he said.

Gold Fields, which also operates in Ghana and Peru, reported unchanged half-year profit on Thursday, with higher exploration expenditure at its Salares Norte operations in northern Chile weighing on profits.

Shares in Gold Fields were flat near 20-month lows.

(Additional reporting by Joe Brock, Editing by Ed Stoddard and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

First Published: 2018-08-16 09:14:15
Updated 2018-08-16 16:21:10


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