ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats), the world's largest producer of the metal, has issued notices to trade unions that it wants to lay off 727 workers, the National Union of Mineworkers said on Thursday.

Amplats earlier this week posted interim results in which it said it had suspended its dividend payment for the six months to end-June 2012 as net debt more than doubled to R9,54bn.

Amplats, which is 80% owned by Anglo American, lowered its full year platinum production target by 100000 ounces because of market conditions. It is now forecasting output between 2,4-million and 2,5-million ounces of platinum from an earlier target of between 2,5-million and 2,6-million ounces.

Platinum producers, labour and the Department of Mineral Resources have set up a forum to address the challenges the industry is facing. Platinum demand is weak, prices are low and input costs are rising, forcing the suspension of mines by some companies. Platinum miners are holding back on big capital expansion projects.

Amplats had issued Section 189 notices to the unions, indicating it wants to cut jobs, the NUM said.

"The NUM is highly perturbed that at a time when a forum to deal with platinum challenges has been established by the minister with all stakeholders involved, the company has now jumped the gun to retrench workers," said Tshimane Montoedi, the NUM's deputy general secretary.

"This action on the part of the company nullifies all our collective endeavours to find solutions to the challenges that beset us," he said. "We are angry that it seems we have all wasted our time in coming together in the establishment of a task team to deal with these challenges if Anglo Platinum can just unilaterally believe it has found a solution."

The NUM wanted Amplats to review its decision to lay off workers.

seccombea@bdfm.co,za