Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer, said on Monday that employees at its Thembelani and Khomanani mines had embarked on a wildcat strike, shutting operations at the two South African mines.

Pranill Ramchander, a spokesman for parent company Anglo American, said the workers were demanding the company rehire union leaders dismissed last week for orchestrating an illegal sit in at Thembelani.

SABC radio said 6,000 Amplats workers had downed tools but the company could not immediately confirm the numbers.

South Africa's platinum belt is in the middle of a violent turf war between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the ANC-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which claimed more than 50 lives last year.

Labour relations are particularly tense ahead of biennial wage negotiations due to start in the gold sector this week.

The AMCU is demanding Amplats more than double the monthly pay of underground workers to 12,500 rand ($1,200) but the company is likely to oppose the hikes as it struggles to return its mines to profit after drops in the spot platinum price.

Amplats has already announced plans to cut 6,000 South African mining jobs and reduce platinum production by 10 percent, or 250,000 ounces, this year in a bid to return to profitability. - Reuters