File photo: Supplied

Rustenburg - Production at the world’s largest platinum mine would be paralysed until at least the middle of the year, even if a work stoppage by the dominant union at the operation was resolved soon, Impala Platinum (Implats) said.

Resuming normal production at the Implats mine near Rustenburg would take at least three months once operations restart, the company said on Friday in a statement.

Implats wrote off the prospect of any output from the mine during its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends June 30.

About 70 000 workers who are members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have been on strike at most South African operations of the three largest platinum producers since January 23, seeking wage increases that the companies say they can’t afford.

Four people died in violent attacks during the past week.

“The human tragedy that is unfolding as a result of our employees not earning any income and the violence and intimidation being experienced on the platinum belt is devastating,” chief executive Terence Goodlace said. “Implats urges Amcu to moderate their demands and accept the fair wage offer.”

Amcu wants basic monthly pay, without benefits, to be more than doubled for entry-level underground employees to R12 500 by 2017, while producers are including cash allowances in that figure.

Implats, the world’s second-biggest platinum producer, had lost about 246 000 ounces of production of the metal since the strike started, equivalent to revenue of R5.4 billion, while employees forfeited R1.4bn in wages, it said.

Group platinum output declined 40 percent to 205 000 ounces in the company’s third quarter to March from a year earlier, largely due to strike-related losses of 131 000 ounces at Impala Rustenburg, it said.

Production from Implats’ other mining operations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, accounting for about 45 percent of total capacity, remained unaffected by the strike, it said.

Implats forecasts group sales of 1.2 million ounces for the year to June, including 150 000 ounces drawn from metal inventories.

“No further excess stocks” will be immediately available, it said.

Prices achieved for the metal used in catalytic converters that reduce harmful carbon emissions from vehicles dropped 15 percent to $1 400 (R14 477) an ounce in the period from a year earlier.

The group curtailed operating costs and capital expenditure by 67 percent as it applied a “no-work, no-pay” principle on salaries and spent less on projects.

The strike at Anglo American Platinum, Implats and Lonmin would have a “profound” effect on exports, delaying a contraction of the deficit on the country’s current account, Kristin Lindow, a senior vice-president at Moody’s Investors Service, said in Cape Town on Friday.

Implats’ Rustenburg mine remains closed after leave for non-striking employees was extended until at least May 25, Johan Theron, a spokesman for the company, said on Thursday.

Entrances used to clock in employees for work at five shafts were empty on Friday as about a dozen workers milled around outside a hostel by Implats’ No 6 shaft ahead of a meeting with union officials.

Lonmin, the third-largest producer, started preparations to resume mining on Wednesday in a bid to break the strike that had halted all its operations.

“People are reporting for work; we’ve seen another peaceful night,” Happy Nkhoma, a spokesman for the company, said on Friday, declining to provide attendance figures.

Police received no reports of violent incidents in the platinum belt last night and this morning, SAPS spokesman Thulani Ngubane said.

Attendance at Anglo American Platinum’s strike-affected mines was improving slowly, company spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said. – Bloomberg