The Star Late Edition
Unions demand Samancor to come clean
THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has instructed mining giant Samancor to come clean – following reports of business practices against the Competition Commission – or face strike action.
NUM national secretary Bonginkosi Mrasi told The Star they are committed to protecting employees and fighting corruption within mining companies.
“We are concerned about reports that Samancor may be involved in activities that are against competition laws in South Africa. We are aware of Samancor’s new ownership and we remain convinced this behaviour must be investigated by the Competition Commission.
“In cases like this, the commission, and the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy must get involved. We know that the Competition Commission would not have approved these transactions,” Mrasi said.
Two weeks ago, The Star published an investigation into Samancor, which stated how South Africa’s biggest chrome miner now belongs to a Chinese Consortium, which includes Sino Steel, Min Metals, and China National Investment Corporation – all three being multi-billion dollar enterprises – but Samancor changed hands in South Africa, with no regulatory approval, and the transaction running into billions of rand.
Soon after Samancor changed ownership in 2019, two companies were appointed to be the agents for Samancor, selling their chrome worldwide. While Samancor had sold chrome to some European countries, Turkey, India, China, South Korea and Japan, the new owners sell almost exclusively to the Chinese market, shutting out other companies from doing business with the Asian giant.
“These transactions, of course, affect black companies and will affect jobs. It is our role to fight for job security. We are prepared to mobilise for that,” Mrasi said.
The Independent Liberation Allied Workers Union (ILAWU) has also called for an investigation into Samancor’s “dirty business”. “We are aware of business practices such as insider trading and improper transactions of big corporates. It’s always the workers that suffer in the end. We are calling on Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Competition Commission to investigate this.
“We want Lyu Zhengyi, (Samancor board representative of China National Investment Corporation) to explain why Samancor entered into an agreement with two strange companies in Hong Kong and Singapore to sell ferrochrome that is worth $195 a ton for $75 a ton. We’re going to be told about retrenchments after these shady deals backfire,” said Siphamandla Masimula, ILAWU’s chairperson.
Besides Samancor’s hugely profitable international links, last year it said it would cut close to 2 500 jobs in response to weak chrome prices. This followed a separate notification of about 599 potential job cuts at its smelting operations and corporate offices.
Though Samancor produces more than a million tons of ferrochrome, used to make stainless steel, per year, according to its website, last year it told unions it would hold talks over the 2 438 potential job cuts at its Eastern Chrome and Western Chrome mines. Unions told the Star the said consultations did not happen as Samancor had stated.