MINERAL Resources Minister Susan Shabangu will hold talks with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Monday about potential job losses, the union said.

"We are hoping to discuss the platinum industry situation and the potential job losses in that sector," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

The platinum sector is facing steeply rising costs and a stagnant metal price, which has left about half the industry unprofitable.

"There should be a press conference after the meeting that will explain what was being discussed," Mr Seshoka said.

Ms Shabangu's spokeswoman, Zingaphi Jakuja, confirmed that the minister was meeting with "stakeholders", but declined to provide further details. "Unfortunately we cannot discuss what the meeting will be about. There will probably be more information if the principals [in the meeting] decide to release a media statement."

The meeting was set to start at 10am.

The City Press reported on Sunday that NUM president Senzeni Zokwana would tell Ms Shabangu that job cuts may affect the union's 300000-strong membership.

"With unemployment already high in this country, we cannot afford any more job losses. We have to find a way of planning in the industry that will protect workers and jobs," Mr Zokwana reportedly said at a discussion forum during the week.

A task team drawn from the Department of Mineral Resources was set up three months ago to study the platinum sector at the behest of Ms Shabangu, because of the unequivocal message coming from companies that they were battling with costs, static prices and operational issues.

The problem has become so severe that the Marikana mine was shut by Aquarius Platinum and its partner, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats). Eastern Platinum has stopped work on a 100000oz-a-year platinum group metal project, citing poor market conditions.

Amplats, the world's leading platinum producer, is conducting a review of its business to restore profit. There is widespread speculation that could involve closure of unprofitable shafts and abandoning unprofitable joint ventures.

The report is now on Ms Shabangu's desk, but she says it will get her full attention only next month because of the pending African National Congress policy conference, which starts on June 26.

Sapa and Allan Seccombe