News / Economy

S. Africa Strike Hits More than Half Global Platinum Production

Mine workers protest outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 23, 2014.
Mine workers protest outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 23, 2014.
Anita Powell
South Africa’s most powerful platinum mining union has launched an indefinite strike, demanding a significant salary hike for entry-level miners.  The strike affects more than half the global platinum production.  The action is another blow to a sector still struggling to recover from a 2012 wildcat strike that led to a police confrontation that left 34 miners dead.
About 70,000 workers at three of South Africa’s largest platinum mines failed to clock in Thursday after negotiations between their union and the mines failed to reach an agreement.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is demanding a minimum wage of about $1,200 (R12,500) for platinum miners at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Lonmin, which account for the bulk of the world’s platinum production.
AMCU treasurer Jimmy Gama did not answer repeated calls seeking comment.
Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said just 15 percent of the company’s employees showed up for work Thursday.  The strike, she said, is losing the company 3,100 ounces of platinum per day, worth nearly $4.5 million.

Impala Platinum, or Implats, also said this week the union's demands would more than double their wage bill.  Implats noted that AMCU’s rival union, the National Union of Mineworkers, had forged a two-year agreement for much more modest raises at another of its mines.
Lonmin spokeswoman Vey said AMCU’s demands are unsustainable.

“The demands made by AMCU, you know, will affect the sustainability of the business.  And we have had months of negotiations and management has made a number of offers to AMCU, but they have all been rejected... but we believe the offers have been fair and that they are sustainable for the business,” said Sue Vey.
Lonmin has a grave history with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.  In 2012, the AMCU, then a minority union to the larger National Union of Mineworkers, was blamed for leading an illegal strike at Lonmin, demanding the same salary as they are today.
During a clash in the nearly two month work stoppage, South African police shot dead 34 of the strikers.  
Unions at odds

More than a year ago, an official with the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions predicted the AMCU, an upstart union, would fizzle out.  It did not, instead it grew, gobbling up members from NUM.
But police say by the one-year anniversary of the shooting they had documented more than a dozen tit-for-tat killings of representatives of the two main unions.  Residents near the mines said they felt under constant threat from union-backed thugs.  

Police, who set up a special unit for mine crimes in the wake of the 2012 shooting, said they deployed forces to keep peace Thursday around a strikers' rally at a stadium near the Lonmin mine.

But NUM General-Secretary Frans Baleni says his members are being pulled into AMCU’s strike against their will, and called for police to prevent violence.

“Well, it has been brought to our attention that around Impala, in particular, there were three people who have been assaulted who were on their way to work, and in Lonmin yesterday and the day before threats were made openly that anybody who might attempt to go to work will be permanently eliminated from planet Earth.  So clearly they were using intimidation with the intention of ensuring that non-strikers are not participating,” said Baleni.

Top South African officials have expressed concern about the platinum strike and a possible gold mining strike.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told South Africa’s state broadcaster that 18 months of struggles in the platinum sector have left the nation unable to afford the toll this strike may take.  

But this strike may also have a political cost for President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress party, who face national elections this year.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.