Talks ahead for paralysed platinum mines

Comment on this story
IOL BR_SAFRICA-STRIKES-_0123_1A Reuters. Platinum bosses and Amcu representatives shake hands at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) offices in Johannesburg after they were told that talks would continue for the next three working days. Chris Griffith, the chief executive at Anglo American Platinum (extreme left), Terrance Goodlace, the chief executive at Impala Platinum (blue striped shirt) and Abey Kgotla, Lonmins head of human resources (black suit), share a light moment with representatives of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union after the government led mediation talks to resolve the platinum mines dispute at the CCMA on Friday. The talks will resume tomorrow and run until Wednesday. Nerine Kahn, the director of the CCMA, described the meeting as a very positive, with all parties recognising the importance of finding a mediated solution. She added that she had full confidence that the CCMA would be able to assist in securing a solution. Photo: CCMA.

The strike at platinum mines paralysed the world’s three biggest producers of the metal for a second day on Friday as talks to resolve the dispute over pay broke up until tomorrow.

Negotiations between Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) would resume for three days at the start of the week, said Musa Zondi, a spokesman for Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, who is mediating the discussions.

The price of platinum, which fell on Friday, pared its declines as prospects of a quick end to the walkout faded. Platinum fixed at $1 443 an ounce in London on Friday afternoon, down $11 from Thursday’s second fix.

“There is a hope that the parties will engage,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said after the meeting. “We are very hopeful that there will be a resolution to this matter.”

He earlier said the companies should prepare for “marathon negotiations”.

At least 70 000 employees began their stayaway on Thursday. The mining companies estimate the strike will cost about R142 million a day in lost revenue.

Police stepped up security as they sought to avoid a repeat of labour unrest that claimed the lives of at least 44 people near Lonmin’s Marikana mine in August 2012.

Amcu, the biggest representative of workers at the mines, has said it would continue the walkout until its pay demands were met. The union wants wages for the lowest-paid entry-level miners to be more than doubled to R12 500 a month. The inflation rate was 5.4 percent last month.

Amplats shares fell 0.91 percent to close at R437.99 on Friday. Implats slid 1.14 percent to R126.10, while Lonmin lost 0.89 percent to R58.07.

Hundreds of striking employees wielding fighting sticks and pangas and singing protest songs marched on Thursday at Implats’s mines in Rustenburg.

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which was displaced by Amcu as the most powerful union at platinum mines, took refuge at NUM offices after being prevented from reporting for duty.

“We again saw large-scale blockading of entrances” at the start of the strike’s second day, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Implats, said on Friday.

The company cancelled its night shift for the duration of the walkout to avoid non-striking employees from commuting in darkness.

About 10 percent of employees reported for duty on Friday and Thursday at the company, Theron said.

He estimated the stoppage would cost the company about 2 800 ounces a day in production of platinum.

Amplats was losing about 4 000 ounces of production a day, it said on Friday.

Worker attendance at affected mines was about 10 percent and the situation was calm.

The company said it condemned the incidents of violence and intimidation taking place around Rustenburg.

Some members of Uasa were intimidated at Implats and Amplats, Franz Stehring, the organisation’s head of mining, said. “We won’t hesitate to withdraw our members from duty if the mines can’t guarantee their safety,” he said.

Uasa mainly represents higher-skilled workers at the operations.

Strikers carrying weapons would face “the might of the law”, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in Pretoria.

“We are concerned about what is happening on the platinum belt,” Mthethwa said.

“I was going around those mines before coming to this press conference. We have seen some people carrying weapons. It’s a problem.”

On Friday, about 50 people barricaded a road close to Amplats’s Khuseleka shaft with burning tyres, stones and rubble, the police said.

A furniture shop at Wonderkop in the Marikana area was burned to the ground and a case of arson was being investigated, police said.

But Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said no serious incidents had occurred around its mines, where 319 employees, or 1.1 percent of staff, reported for duty on Friday.

The company would lose about 3 100 ounces of platinum a day because of the strike, it said.

Amplats, which did not provided a figure, lost about 3 100 ounces a day during a similar walkout in October.

The 9 000 ounces of lost platinum between the three companies equates to about R142m in revenue based on Friday’s spot price and rand exchange rate. – Kevin Crowley, Andre Janse van Vuuren and Paul Burkhardt for Bloomberg



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.