Striking South Africa gold miners reject pay offer

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The South African government estimates that gold and platinum production worth 4.5 billion rand ($517m) has been lost to the strikes so far

Striking gold miners in South Africa have rejected the industry’s latest wage offer, a trade union said on Thursday, dimming hopes that wildcat strikes that have paralysed the sector could end anytime soon.

Since August, some 100 thousand workers across South Africa, including 75 thousand in the mining sector, have downed tools in often illegal and violent strikes that are hitting economic growth and undermining investor confidence in the minerals hub.

“This was a final offer from the companies. They said take it or leave it. Now that it has been rejected our options have been exhausted,” the spokesman for the National Union of Mine workers said, Lesiba Seshoka, said.

Africa’s top two bullion producers, AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields, have been hit by an estimated 48 thousand miners taking to the streets to fight for higher wages.

The action is costing AngloGold 32 thousand ounces of gold each week, while Gold Fields is losing 2,300 ounces a day at the two mines that have been affected.

The companies said they would respond later via the Chamber of Mines, the industry body that has been negotiating on their behalf.

The wildcat strikes, which started in the platinum industry and then spread to other mining companies and beyond, have raised questions about President Jacob Zuma’s leadership and tarnished South Africa’s reputation among foreign investors.

Africa’s biggest economy is home to 80 per cent of known reserves of platinum.

The price of the precious metal has risen more than 20 per cent since police shot 34 miners on Aug. 16, the bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The death toll from the labour unrest has risen to more than 50, and the violence continues.

The government estimates that gold and platinum production worth 4.5 billion rand ($517m) has been lost to the strikes so far, along with 118 million rand lost in coal production.

The Central Bank governor, Gill Marcus, said this week that the domestic economic outlook was “deteriorating rapidly’’, with the unrest likely to lead to job losses, adding that the mines employ around 500 thousand people.

Reuters/NAN