News / Africa

South Africa Mining Unrest Far from Over

Mineworkers take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, September 12, 2012.
Mineworkers take part in a march outside the Anglo American mine in South Africa's North West Province, September 12, 2012.
Anita Powell
— Labor unrest is threatening to spread across South Africa's mining sector after a firebrand youth leader called for workers across the nation to make the mines "ungovernable." 

At the Lonmin platinum mine where the strikes started, workers' attendance has plunged to its lowest level yet. Just 1.8 percent of workers turned up at the mine in Marikana township Wednesday - a clear sign that South Africa’s mining woes are far from over.

South Africa's Mining Industry

  • Number of workers: 498,141
  • Industry deaths: 128
  • Key commodities mined: Diamonds, gold, platinum, palladium
  • Real mining GDP: $12.06 billion
  • Mineral exports: $36.25 billion

Source: Chamber of Mines of South Africa Figures for 2010
The company said in a statement it is continuing to seek a negotiated solution after weeks of strikes and violence have led to at least 45 deaths, including that of a man found hacked to death outside the Marikana mine on Tuesday.

The illegal action has caught on at other mining companies in the mineral-rich nation, encouraged in part by ex-youth leader Julius Malema.

Malema calls movement a "revolution"

Malema did not mince words when he spoke to miners on Tuesday.  He called for a national mining strike.  He has repeatedly called on workers to make South Africa’s mining sector “ungovernable” and calls his movement a “revolution.”

The workers appear to be listening.

Mining giant Impala Platinum says its workers are now demanding a raise - which if granted, would be their second increase in six months.

Impala spokesman Bob Gilmour says it’s possible that the strikers were motivated by their brothers-in-arms at Lonmin. 

“It’s possible that is part of the reason, because there’s a lot of hype... as you gather in the mining industry, so it’s possible it’s coming from there.  So that’s the demand that they came forward with, and currently what we’re doing is we’re sitting down and meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the issues and do a full review of everything.  So that’s where we stand at this point in time," said Gilmour.

Political, social unrest

The strikes are happening against a backdrop of political and social unrest in South Africa.  Poor South Africans have held increasingly violent protests over their lack of basic services.  And politicians are jockeying for power ahead of an important party conference later this year.

Gilmour says there are many forces at work driving the labor unrest.

"It’s a very difficult question," he said.  "I think there’s a whole lot of issues coming into play here, in terms of… maybe there are some concerns about salary, but I think the issues are more about service delivery and local communities etcetera and possibly political… also events in the background being played out.  So it’s not a straightforward issue regarding salaries.  I think salaries, or wages, are just being used as a rallying call, put it that way.”

Impact on world platinum market

Regardless of the cause, the strike at Lonmin has immobilized the South Africa platinum mine and shaken world markets.

A peace accord signed last week stipulated that workers return to work by Monday.  That deadline was extended to Tuesday but has still not been followed.

Workers launched a wildcat strike in August after union negotiations broke down.  On August 16, strikers clashed with police at the mine some 100 kilometers from Johannesburg, leading police to shoot dead 34 demonstrators.  The government has ordered an investigation into the matter.

The workers are demanding a threefold pay raise to about $1,500 a month.  Meanwhile, their absence from work has seriously impacted the platinum market and Lonmin’s productivity.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid