BHP Billiton plans to cut 15% of its workforce at the group’s Hotazel Manganese mines in South Africa resulting in a 150 redundancies, trade union solidarity has said.

The retrenchment follows a steep fall in demand for manganese, produced in the Northern Cape area, which is used in steel production.

Nearly 950 people are employed at the site.

The company has begun working with the independent Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to begin the process, according to

Solidarity said the Northern Cape province has been severely affected by the economic downturn and BHP should look at retrenchment as the last resort.