Johannesburg, South Africa — 27 August 2012 – World no. 3 platinum producer Lonmin is racing to resume ore extraction at its Marikana site, with no guarantee striking workers will return this week after a mourning period for comrades killed in a wave of labour unrest.
Lonmin’s South African operations have been paralysed since an illegal strike involving 3,000 rock driller operators started two weeks ago and exploded into violent clashes that killed 44 people, including 34 striking workers gunned down by police, Reuters reports.
Lonmin accounts for about 12% of global platinum output and the freezing of its mining operations has driven the price of the metal up by around 10%.
“Eastern shafts are working this weekend and we have 57% attendance across these shafts. The rest of the mine is closed as this is their off-weekend,” Lonmin said in a statement issued here.
“Mining operations will only resume once we have sufficient workers in attendance and the necessary safety procedures have been undertaken,” the Lonmin announcement said.
It was not clear when the company would attain those numbers. Some workers indicated that the martyrdom of their colleagues had raised the stakes and it would be a betrayal if miners returned unless they had won the wage increases that they had demanded.
The striking workers have been demanding a monthly wage of R12,500. The company says they get about R9,800 with an average monthly bonus of R1,500.
Meanwhile the government said at the weekend that the world’s largest platinum producers were discussing a move to collective bargaining.
The platinum sector negotiates with unions on a company-by-company basis, leaving individual firms open to labour discontent as rival organisations promise workers better deals. This has created wage disparities between platinum companies that do not exist in the gold and coal sectors, which bargain collectively.
Lonmin’s acting chief executive Simon Scott said the company was hoping a peace accord mediated by the department of labour could be reached between the warring sides.
"We are dealing with tragic and challenging issues, and will be for a long time to come, but for the sake of the company, its many thousands of employees and the industry which supports them, we need to find a sustainable peace accord which allows people to return to a working business," Scott said.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.