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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8874
JPY
USD
120.83
GBP
USD
0.6497
CAD
USD
1.3271
INR
USD
66.162

Rates may not be current.