Dineo Faku

The three major platinum houses will oppose the legal bid tomorrow by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to prevent them from communicating directly with their members in an attempt to break the 17-week strike in the platinum belt.

Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin and Impala Platinum are expected to oppose Amcu’s urgent interdict at the Labour Court to prevent them from speaking directly to members through SMSes and other electronic media.

This comes after Lonmin, the third-largest platinum producer, temporarily suspended its SMS campaign on Wednesday after it became clear that the process was not yielding any immediate success. Lonmin had set Wednesday as a deadline for striking miners to report for duty but this went unheeded as worries about safety persisted.

Lonmin has approached the court for an interim interdict for essential services employees to return to work. It said it would also lodge a legal battle to declare the strike dysfunctional following heightened tensions in Rustenburg.

At the same time, Impala said the crisis in the platinum belt was devastating.

“The human tragedy that is unfolding as a result of our employees not earning any income and the violence and intimidation being experienced in the platinum belt is devastating,” chief executive Terence Goodlace said on Friday.

The company expected to be paralysed until at least the middle of the year even if the strike ended soon.

“The resumption of normalised production levels at Impala Rustenburg, once the strike ends and operations resume, is expected to take at least three months to achieve.

“Consequently, no further production is expected from this operation in the final quarter of fiscal 2014,” which ends on June 30, Goodlace said in Impala’s production report for the quarter to March.

The company, which spends R1 billion a month to run the Rustenburg mine, estimates that it might cost as much as R3bn to restart it. Most of that would be mainly related to the amount of time to restore the underground workings, Roger Dixon, the chairman at SRK Consulting, said on Friday.

“After 16 weeks of strike, rock faces may have deteriorated, and many stope faces may have collapsed. These will have to be restored safely. You have to have support on the faces so that during the first blast you don’t have a fall of ground incident.”

Impala said it had lost about 246 000 ounces of production since the strike started Prices achieved for the metal used in catalytic converters that reduce harmful carbon emissions from vehicles dropped 15 percent to $1 400 (R14 490) an ounce in the period from a year earlier.

Group platinum output declined 40 percent to 205 000 ounces in the company’s third quarter to March from a year earlier, it said.

Four Lonmin workers were killed ahead of the firm’s deadline for its employees to return to work last Wednesday. Amcu blamed the SMS campaign for fuelling divisions among employees and for heightened tension in the platinum belt.

In Amcu’s founding affidavit filed on May 12, the union argued that the employer had no right according to the law to interfere in the contractual relationship between itself and its members. One SMS listed in the application from Impala reads: “All employees must now seriously consider the wage offer. We have to work together to find solutions that are affordable and possible to resolve this wage deadlock.”

Under the revised offer, employers proposed that the cash remuneration for entry-level underground employees would rise to R12 500 a month, or R150 000 a year, by July 2017.

Cash remuneration includes allowances such as the living out allowance and holiday leave allowance, but excludes medical and retirement benefits, and any bonuses.

Amcu’s core demand is for a basic wage of R12 500 a month for entry-level underground staff, compared with the current minimum of R4 000 to R5 500 a month.