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South Africa's state mediator said the Chamber of Mines has put talks aimed at ending a strike at the world's largest platinum mines in jeopardy after an official from the lobby group accused the facilitator of incompetence.

Elize Strydom, chief negotiator for the Johannesburg Chamber, said poor negotiation skills of officials at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration made it “incredibly frustrating” to reach a settlement, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported on Sunday, citing Strydom.

She is advising Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc on talks to end the strike over pay, now in its seventh week.

“Senior commissioners of the CCMA need to understand economics, otherwise you cannot be a negotiator, let alone a facilitator or mediator,” Strydom said, according to the newspaper.

Talks between mining companies and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union collapsed last week after the CCMA said the parties remained far apart. The AMCU called the strike on January 23 in support of its demand to have the monthly entry-level pay of underground miners more than doubled to R12 500. The three employers, who are negotiating as a unit, have offered to increase current basic pay of R5000 by as much as nine percent.

Strydom's comments may “impair the trust relations key to mediation,” the Johannesburg-based CCMA said in an e-mailed statement today. “We consider it alarming that an organization such as the Chamber of Mines could utilize a public forum to express its opinion without having at any point raised these issues with the CCMA.”

Zingaphi Jakuja, a spokeswoman for the chamber, wasn't immediately able to comment when contacted by phone.

The industry lobby group should “either endorse Dr. Strydom's comments on the mediation process and accept the consequences thereof, or reject them in their entirety and apologize to the CCMA and all affected parties,” the mediator said in its statement.