The incoming chief executive of Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L - news) struck a defiant tone over South African anger at planned job cuts, branding threats to review the miner’s ability to operate in the country as “out of order”.
The response from politicians risked scaring off investment, Mark Cutifani warned at a mining conference.
“I hope after the hue and cry from investors all around the world ... we’ve all learned the lesson that we shouldn’t be threatening licences when a company is looking at preserving its life,” he said.
Mr Cutifani, soon to take over from Cynthia Carroll as chief executive of the FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) company, spoke after Anglo’s plans to cut 14,000 jobs in the country sparked a political backlash.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the group’s platinum arm, said last month that it needs to mothball two mines, sell another, and shrink its workforce to keep the business going.
The sector had been struggling faced with high costs and weaker metal prices even before the platinum belt became the backdrop for last year’s violent strikes, hitting production.
However, Amplats’ move sparked anger amid politicians and unions, raising questions as to whether the plans can be enacted in full. Susan Shabangu, the minerals resources minister, has said she would review Amplats’ mining licenses.
Mr Cutifani called for both sides to start talking. “We do have some challenges and I think the most difficult issue is the industry and the government is shouting at each other from our respective corners,” he said.
Ms Shabangu did strike a more conciliatory note this week, however, as she said the government is “fully conscious” that the resource industry needs capital to be invested by the private sector.