Thungela Resources does not plan broad job cuts at its South African coal mines despite ongoing output curbs, as it plans to re-deploy staff to new projects that will start producing next year, CFO Deon Smith said on Wednesday. The thermal coal exporter’s South African production will be 1 million metric tons lower this year than last, at 12.1 million tons.
In an update on Wednesday, the miner said it had reduced production because state-owned freight rail monopoly Transnet’s services had been disrupted by “an increase in security-related issues as well as locomotive failures”, constraining capacity to transport commodities to port.
The company had not launched a job restructuring process but relied on natural employee attrition and the targeting of areas mined by contractors as it reduced production, Smith said during an investor call. He added that Thungela wanted to retain skills for its 4.2 million ton per year Elders mine, due to start production during the first half of 2024 to replace output from the Goedehoop colliery, which is approaching the end of its life.
Thungela is also extending the life of its flagship Zibulo operation by up to 12 years.
“We have pulled every single lever we can think of so far to keep our costs in check, but we’re not yet at a point where we need to necessarily restructure our business,” Smith said when asked if the company was considering job cuts.
South Africa’s rail crisis has also forced other South African bulk mineral exporters such as Kumba Iron Oreto cut production. Transnet is on course to transport only 47 million tons of coal to port this year, lower than the 50.3 million tons last year and the lowest level in three decades. Five years ago, Thungela, then a unit of Anglo American Plc, exported 17 million tons of coal.
Thungela this year acquired Ensham mine in Australia as it diversifies away from South Africa and its infrastructure challenges. Smith said Thungela was working on expanding production at Ensham, where output is expected to be 2.9 million tons this year, higher than the initial forecast of 2.7 million tons.