Davos - The government needs to "engage" with platinum and gold mining firms about proposed shaft closures and mass lay-offs and is not threatening them with licence reviews, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
"We are not making any threat to anyone. We are saying: 'Let us come together, let us discuss. This affects all of us. It does not affect companies only,'" he told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"I don't think we should say either government should make unilateral decisions - for example the licenses - or that companies should have unilateral power to say 'Because our company is in trouble, without consulting anybody, just take action'," he said.
"We are a constitutional democracy. We must engage."
Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] (Amplats) announced that it planned to stop production at four of its shafts in Rustenburg, which could result in the loss of 14 000 jobs, and to sell a mine which was considered unsustainable.
The ANC strongly condemned amplats plans to cut jobs as it restructures its strike-hit operations.
"This decision is cynical and dangerous in the extreme," said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu in a statement.
"If Anglo persists with the retrenchments, it's a window for government to take those mines and nationalise them," Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said.
"This is not a reprisal, for example, against the strikes at the end of last year. This process started at the beginning of 2012 and it was to address the fundamental and structural changes to our businesses that have made our operations unprofitable," Anglo Platinum CEO Chris Griffith said on a conference call.
"This not a knee-jerk reaction to unions, this is not a short-term response to an economy that may improve in a month or two's time. The company has to take these drastic and significant actions to save the company and the employment of an additional 45 000 people."
The Amplats announcement came after Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR] said it was suspending operations at its Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville, to review operations after several illegal strikes. It planned to retrench about 6 000 workers.
Harmony met with unions to discuss the planned lay offs but said Kusasalethu will remain closed until an agreement has been reached, and all the conditions of re-opening have been agreed upon and committed to by all the unions and other stakeholders involved.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the government had no plans to nationalise unsustainable mines.
Mantashe said the ANC had made a proposal to the mineral resources department that shafts which had become unsustainable, or been "mothballed", be put up for auction.
The mining sector employs 500 000 people and accounts for more than 6% of GDP but suffered the worst industrial unrest since apartheid in 2012, including the killing of 34 strikers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine by police in August.
Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.