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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8845
JPY
USD
117.71
GBP
USD
0.6643
CAD
USD
1.2669
INR
USD
62.019

Rates may not be current.