Johannesburg, South Africa — 05 September 2013 – A strike for higher pay hit production at most of South Africa’s gold mines yesterday, but the country’s biggest mining trade union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was willing to relax some of its demands.

The stoppage began at the evening shift on Tuesday, with many miners refusing to go underground, reports Fin24.

The Chamber of Mines of South Africa says that most of the country’s gold mines have been severely affected by the sector strike. Gold producers’ representative spokesperson Charmane Russell said that fewer than 20% of the workforce had arrived for shifts at the affected mines since the strike action started.

This is according to an update posted on goldwagenegotiations.co.za, which is hosted by the Chamber of Mines. It showed that only six out of 23 listed mines were fully operational.

Producers represented by the Chamber said output at 16 of the 23 mines currently involved in talks was partially or severely affected. The operators of the mines include South Africa’s main producers AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold.

"The majority of Harmony’s operations have been severely affected, although all essential services personnel are at work," the company said in a statement.

However, the NUM, which represents two-thirds of the country’s gold mine workers, has already opened the prospect of a compromise, saying it was prepared to lower its pay increase demands for some specific employee categories.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the gold producers had made some proposals during talks in a bid to reach a deal.

“I can’t say whether there was an improvement on the (pay rise) offer but they have made some proposals,” Seshoka revealed. He said the union would consult its members today.

In another positive sign, junior producers Village Main Reef and Pan African Resources said they had made separate pay agreements with NUM members in their workforces.

The gold industry stoppage is seen costing South Africa around US$35 million a day in lost production, adding to the nation’s economic woes as strikes over pay reduce output in other industries such as auto manufacturing.

The peaceful legal strikes contrasted with the often violent illegal stoppages that brought turmoil to South Africa’s gold and platinum mines last year, when more than 50 people were killed in labour clashes. The mayhem slowed South Africa’s economic growth and led to sovereign credit downgrades.

Seshoka told SAFM radio that the union had told the employers’ Chamber of Mines negotiators: “If you are prepared to move, then we may be prepared to move.”

Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.