Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: Timothy Bernard

Johannesburg - The Minister of mineral resources will leave it up to employers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to resolve the “tiny” outstanding matters between themselves if the two parties do not sign a deal to end the strike today.

Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said at the weekend that he would hold a final meeting with Amcu today, where the interministerial task team he set up two weeks ago would get feedback on whether the employers’ offer had been accepted by the union’s members.

The minister’s spokesman, Mahlodi Muofhe, said yesterday that a lot of ground had been covered in narrowing the gap between Amcu’s demands and what the platinum producers had put on the table.

“The issues have been narrowed significantly, such that we believe that they can, on their own, take the matters forward now. The parties have been deliberating in good faith. The minister’s goal was to get them to talk to each other and that milestone has been reached,” Muofhe said.

He said the minister had become involved in the first place because the two parties had not been communicating at all.

The strike entered its 20th week on Thursday. More than 70 000 Amcu members have been on strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum and Lonmin since January 23.

Last week Amcu rejected the package of R800 annual increases in the basic monthly wage for five years that was presented to it by the task team, saying this was still too far from its demands.

Both parties had been represented by their negotiating teams when they arrived at this settlement. The union has been demanding a R12 500 a month basic salary for the lowest paid underground employee.

Muofhe would not say how close the new offer came to meeting Amcu’s demand.

After the rejection of the previous settlement package, the task team brought the companies’ chief executives and top Amcu leadership into one room. They convened for three days and Muofhe said it was evident that they were now tolerant and willing to talk to each other.

“While the ultimate goal is to end the strike, the minister is taking a decision to step back because he feels it’s close to that,” Muofhe said.

While some platinum producers could not comment on whether they had faith that the talks would move forward in the absence of the task team, Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said last week that what Amcu was asking of the platinum producers was unsustainable. Anglo American controls Amplats, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s newly mined platinum.

The Amplats share price inched 0.15 percent up to R473.85 on Wednesday after Ramatlhodi announced that the end was in sight for the platinum belt strike. On Friday, it gained R2.50 to R470. - Business Report