Workers at Barrick Gold's former South Yilgarn mines are sweating on the results of an operational review after South Africa's Gold Fields dropped the axe on about 60 staff at its newly acquired Lawlers operation.
Gold Fields, which this month closed a $US270 million ($279.3 million) deal to buy the Lawlers, Darlot and Granny Smith mines from Barrick, said its move to integrate the Lawlers mine with the nearby Agnew operation meant about 60 jobs would go.
It is understood most of the roles came from Lawlers' processing facility, due for closure by the end of next month. Gold Fields said some operational and administrative positions would also be abolished.
The company had previously said it expected to save $US18 million a year by combining the Lawlers and Agnew processing facilities. About $US10 million to $US15 million could also be saved by integrating site management and infrastructure.
More than 900 staff and contractors at Darlot and Granny Smith face an anxious wait for the findings of a Gold Fields review of the operations, with further announcements expected in the next few weeks.
Sources said the workforce believed further job losses were almost certain given Gold Fields had made no secret it believed costs and staff would need to be cut. The miner has already shed more than 390 positions at its St Ives and Agnew operations over the past year to improve margins.
The acquisitions catapulted Gold Fields to the position of Australia's third-biggest gold producer, with its combined operations likely to produce more than a million ounces a year when the integration is complete.
Although the sale of the three mines was assumed to be the first step in Barrick's complete withdrawal from Australia, sources say the Canadian gold miner could be rethinking the timing of some assets sales.
Barrick this year threatened to close its ageing Kanowna Belle operation. The mine is believed to be up for sale but sources say the miner could be reconsidering that strategy after a strong turnaround in the September quarter.
It is believed higher mine grades and productivity improvements added as much as $20 million to the operation's $3 million June quarter profit margin, leaving Barrick executives reconsidering a sale of the mine in favour of retaining it until the natural end of its life, towards the end of 2014.