The company blamed the job cuts on lower coal prices, rising costs and labour unrest, and added that its finances were under pressure as it was supplying coal to South African state power firm Eskom at prices lower than the cost of production.

Job losses have become a huge deal in South Africa as the unemployment rate has presently reached 25%.

Ngoako Ramatlhodi said that mines producing 10 million tonne of coal-a-year have to be shut down because Glencore did not follow legal procedure in the process of cutting jobs.

He also added that the operations will remain shuttered until the issue is solved.

Reuters reported Ramatlhodi as saying: "The retrenchments … were inhumanely conducted and disregarded all the legal prescripts which govern the process of retrenchments."

Glencore claims that it followed all the legal requirements relating to job cuts, and a meeting is scheduled between the mining company, Eskom and the department of trade and industry to resolve the issue.