Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 27 August 2010 – South Africa’s biggest mining trade union “’ the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) “’ says it may expand strike action at BHP Billiton Limited and Rio Tinto Plc’s Richards Bay Minerals venture to other units of the two companies.
More than 1 700 workers were scheduled to begin what has been called “prolonged strike action” there today, according to an NUM email statement.
The union, which is demanding a 10% pay increase, may extend the strike to BHP’s other operations in the country and Palabora Mining Company Limited’s plants, it said. Rio owns 58% of Palabora, according to Bloomberg data.
Spokeswoman for Richards Bay Minerals Nthabiseng Motsepe wasn’t immediately able to comment when Bloomberg News called.
The company offered 8% and said yesterday that the offer would revert to 6% if unions didn’t accept it.
Richards Bay Minerals dredges beach sand to extract so-called heavy minerals, including titanium, rutile, pig iron and zircon. It supplies about a quarter of the world’s titanium dioxide, according to the company’s website.
South Africa has the second-largest reserves of titanium in the world and produces more than 1.1Mtpa “’ second only to Australia, according to South Africa Info, a government website. Titanium oxide is the world’s main white pigment used in the coatings and plastics industry.
BHP is the world’s biggest mining company, while Rio Tinto is the third-largest.