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Sibanye-Stillwater lays off 100 workers, mostly at mine in Nye

Mix of hourly and salaried workers
stillwater mine generic.png
Posted at 10:13 AM, Nov 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-29 12:13:26-05

NYE — Sibanye-Stillwater laid off 100 people, mostly from its Nye mine, on Tuesday, saying it had no other option as palladium prices continue to fall.

"This was the last thing we wanted to do," said Sibanye Vice President Heather McDowell, "but we just can't make it work any other way. The palladium market is half of what it was a year ago."

Sibyane-Stillwater is North America's only producer of platinum and palladium at its two Montana mines. Palladium prices have fallen 45 percent since the end of 2022, trading at $1,040 per ounce Tuesday.

Palladium has multiple applications, though its primary use is in making catalytic converters for automobiles. Palladium is also found in jewelry, dental fillings and electric components.

Notices were sent to affected employees around 3 p.m. Tuesday. About half of those let go were still in their probationary period with the company, which is five months for hourly employees and one year for salaried workers. The layoffs won't technically go into effect until Friday to allow all employees to retain health insurance coverage through the end of the year, but those laid off will not return to work past Wednesday.

A smaller number of layoffs also hit the East Boulder mine, the Columbus smelter, the metallurgical complex and other remote company operations, according to the company.

Most hourly workers at Stillwater are represented by the United Steelworkers union local 11-0001, which is based in Columbus. McDowell did say how many union workers lost their jobs, and union officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

McDowell said the company has been looking at all options for a while, but officials decided they had no other choice.

"We haven't been making money at our Montana operations for months," she said. "We've been trying to trim costs where we can, but labor accounts for about 50% of our overall budget, and we eventually had no other choice."

These are the first mass layoffs at the mine since August 2015, when, under different management as a publicly traded company, Stillwater cut 119 workers. In 2017, Sibanye, a South African mining company, bought Stillwater and its assets and took the company private, changing the name to Sibanye-Stillwater.

Sibanye-Stillwater now employs 1,777 people.