Mining sector in turmoil as Anglo American sheds 85,000 jobs

London: The decision by a London-based mining company to shed 85,000 jobs is the sign of a global industry in crisis, with conglomerates reassessing their huge operations to cope with a drop in demand from Chinese factories for metals and other raw materials.

Anglo American said today it will shed some 63 per cent of its workforce in a radical restructuring meant to cope with tumbling commodity prices.

It will streamline its global business from some 55 mines to around 20.

CEO Mark Cutifani said the drop in commodity prices requires “bolder action,” even though the company has delivered on performance and previous business restructuring objectives.

He pledged to provide more details later.

The dividend was suspended for the second half of 2015 and 2016.

Investors reacted with dismay. The company’s share price fell 11 per cent to 327.30 pence.

Mining companies around the world are facing tough times as economic growth slows in China, whose manufacturers’ need for raw materials has driven a years-long boom in mining in countries like Australia and Brazil.

China accounts for as much as 40 per cent to 50 per cent of global commodity demand, according to consultants PwC.

Its economic growth is forecast to drop below 7 per cent a year from double digits in recent years and commodity prices are tracking it lower.

“Mining companies are feeling the wrath of the collapse in commodity prices,” said Gianna Bern, who teaches finance at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and expects others across the industry to also either cut or suspend their dividends to cope.

“Companies are weathering some very tough economic times.”

The price of copper has dropped about 30 per cent in the past year; gold 11 per cent; iron ore has about halved.

Companies have focused on cutting costs and reducing capital spending, but market values have continued to decline among the top 40 companies losing some USD 156 billion or 16 percent of their combined market value in 2014, PwC said.

“With few exceptions, the commodity price outlook remains dim, forcing miners to keep up their guard,” PwC said in its report.

“As the old saying goes, survival will be of the fittest, and for miners also the leanest.”

Just as first there was a big boom in commodities, now there’s an equally big bust, said Julian Jessop, the chief global economist at Capital Economics.