Strike-hit platinum producer Lonmin has fired 235 of its workers “who have been absent since January 23” when members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) downed tools to demand a higher wage.

Under an agreement with AMCU, essential service workers are not allowed to strike.

“These are employees who have been absent since January 23, so the recent intimidation does not explain their absence,” spokesperson Happy Nkhoma said. “A court order to this effect was obtained on February 27 requiring all essential workers to return to work by May 12.”

Lonmin has lost a third of its production due to the wage strike, which has now been ongoing for 17 weeks. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats) have also been heavily affected, bringing 40% of the world’s production of platinum to a halt.

Amcu is demanding a R12 500 basic salary over a four-year period while the mines’ latest offer would see workers earn a minimum cash remuneration – comprising basic wages and holiday, living-out and other allowances – of R12 500 a month by 2017.

Meanwhile, employees at the strike-hit mines have lost an estimated R8.3 billion in wages since the strike started. In total to date, Lonmin, Amplats and Implats have lost R18.5 billion in revenue.