190514 Lonmin CEO Ben Magara at the meida briefing regarding AMCU strike in Rusternburg.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

London/Johannesburg - South African platinum producer Lonmin said on Monday it had lost a third of its annual production due to a mining strike over wages that is entering its 17th week.

South Africa's longest and costliest mining strike has turned violent this month, with four miners killed as more employees try to report for work at the world's top platinum producers.

Lonmin had anticipated a mass return of its employees to work last week but striking members of the main Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) prevented other workers from returning to the mines.

“The first try for us remains a negotiated settlement with Amcu, our majority union. The strike has now entered its 17th week and we have now lost a third of our production for the whole year,” chief executive Ben Magara said during a briefing with journalists.

“We are committed to do that if realistic and feasible to achieve but the situation is becoming sufficiently desperate that we have to look at other options. If needs be, to make it possible for all those employees wishing to do so, to return to work, then we'll examine all our legal options in this regard.”

On Thursday, Lonmin said it might go to court in a bid to stop the strike.

The strike has hit about 40 percent of global production of the precious metal used for emissions-capping catalytic converters used in automobiles.

A moderate reaction of platinum prices to the supply disruption, though, indicates demand for the precious metal is weaker than many had expected.

Magara said he was surprised to see the platinum price had not moved much. - Reuters