The world’s number one platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) announced on Tuesday it was closing four shafts in northern South Africa, which could affect 14,000 jobs in the volatile mining sector.

The closure will lead to a reduction in production of some 400,000 ounces a year, with Amplats setting a new baseline production target of 2.1 — 2.3 million ounces annually, the company said in a statement. Amplats would also sell its Union mines.

Of the jobs, 13,000 will be in Rustenburg, the heart of South Africa’s platinum belt, which saw violent strikes last year, as miners downed tools demanding higher wages. Dozens died around the Lonmin Plc mines in the area.

The closures could spark another wave of unrest in South Africa’s mining sector as militant workers’ groups have threatened to launch new strikes if mining firms announce layoffs. The mining company said it intends to create new 14,000 jobs to balance the effects of the restructuring.

Amplats said “a number of its mines have been under considerable economic pressure for some time.”

Mining union “shocked”

The National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, the country’s largest mining union, said it was calling for workers to fight the expected 14,000 retrenchments at Anglo American platinum.

“We are very shocked by the decision. We are appealing to workers to have unity and discipline to deal with this retrenchment,” Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for NUM, told DPA by telephone.

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