JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Miner and commodity trader Glencore is considering closing its Eland platinum mine in South Africa due to falling prices, it said on Tuesday.
"Glencore has informed the Department of Mineral Resources and relevant unions of the potential closures," the company said in a statement, adding that it had also begun discussions with trade unions about possible job losses.
"The closure would affect just under 1,000 jobs at the mine," Gideon du Plessis, Solidarity's General Secretary general told Reuters.
Eland produced 35,000 ounces of platinum metals in the first quarter of this year, Glencore said in May.
Falling product prices, rising costs and labour disputes have hit much of South Africa's mining industry, which contributes around 7 percent to the economy.
Job losses in the mining sector have already helped push South Africa's unemployment rate to 25 percent officially, but some analysts say the rate is higher.
Solidarity, which mostly represents skilled workers and supervisors, said a survey had found that close to 20,000 jobs could be lost this year at 24 mines across the country based on notices given to workers at companies where it is represented.
The figures could be higher as Solidarity did not include job cuts planned at gold producer AngloGold Ashanti and at mines owned by Anglo American.
Platinum producers Lonmin and Anglo American Platinum are also planning to cut jobs and the government has held meetings with companies and unions to try and prevent widespread job cuts.
Two months ago Glencore disposed of its 23.9 percent stake in Lonmin by distributing the shares to its own shareholders, saying platinum was not one of its core commodities.
Then earlier this month South Africa's government and Glencore clashed after the mines minister ordered the firm to suspend operations at its 10 million tonnes-a-year Optimum coal mine, saying the mining group hadn't followed legal procedures in its plan to cut 380 jobs at the mine.
The suspension was later reversed and Glencore said the low price that the state-owned power utility Eskom was paying for coal from Optimum had put financial strain on the mine and forced it into business rescue proceedings.
Meanwhile labour unions and South African gold producers reached deadlock last week in wage talks which will now be handled by a government mediator, a necessary regulatory step before the union members can go on strike.