01/12/2010 CEO of Harmony Graham Briggs during their AGM at Auckland Park JHB. (646) Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - Harmony Gold Mining, Africa’s third-largest producer, said second-quarter profit rose 28 percent as costs dropped and prices received for the metal climbed even as its biggest operation was shut due to strikes.

Earnings excluding one-time items climbed to 680 million rand ($77 million), or 1.58 rand a share, in the three months through December from 529 million rand, or 1.23 rand a share, in the prior three months, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today.

The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for earnings of 1.05 rand a share.

Gold production dropped 9 percent in the December quarter from the first three months of the fiscal year because of a strike at the Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville, South Africa, the company’s largest.

Harmony has kept Kusasalethu shut since the work stoppages and violence.

About 6,000 workers in including contractors at the mine could lose their jobs, Harmony said in a January 7 statement.

About 200 employees will perform maintenance on the mine during a 60-day review process that may lead to the closure of Kusasalethu.

Operating costs dropped 127 million rand, mainly because of lower electricity costs, the company said. - Bloomberg