‘One of our top performers’: No major job cuts planned for Unki as parent Amplats culls 3,700 workers

Zimbabwe unki platinum
Unki Mine: production up due to US$62M investment

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) says its Zimbabwe operation, Unki, will be shielded from the full impact of planned job cuts across the group because it is one of its top performers.

Amplats announced on Monday that it will cut 3,700 jobs and review the contracts of 620 suppliers across its businesses. This is after the group recorded a 71% drop in earnings for 2023 due to a 35% fall in platinum prices.

Unki’s total platinum group metal (PGM) production rose by 5% to 243,800 ounces, benefiting from an investment that increased output from its new US$62 million concentrator plant. This beat the 232,000 ounces in 2022, setting a new record for Unki. The mine’s USD operating costs rose by 9% as a result of higher costs of explosives, chemicals and power. Unki’s costs are stable, the company says, saving the mine from severe job cuts.

Unki is a bright spot for Amplats, which has to cut up to 17% of its total workforce to contain costs. There will be jobs lost in Zimbabwe, but most of the cuts will be in Amplats’ South African operations, says CEO Craig Miller.

“The majority of those 3,700 jobs are in South Africa. There is a little bit of work (retrenchments) that Unki needs to do; it’s in the tens, rather than in the hundreds. But it does need to, given the low-price environment, look for ways in terms of optimising its cost profile and its efficiencies,” Miller says.

Acting CFO Sayurie Naidoo said Unki has been one of Amplats’ best performers on containing costs.

“Unki is one of our better performing assets in terms of cost performance. It’s got a bit of cost discipline and cost control. Obviously, there is always room for improvement. The restructure will add some benefit from a labour perspective, but I think in the other areas we are fairly comfortable,” says Naidoo. 

Implats, which owns Zimbabwe’s largest producer Zimplats, recently suspended some of its expansion projects due to weak platinum prices. This includes some projects under the US$1.8 billion investment plan in Zimbabwe. The low prices have also forced Tharisa to postpone the development of a new mine in Zimbabwe, Karo, which would be the country’s third-largest platinum producer.