Johannesburg, South Africa — 05 November 2012 – Striking miners at AngloGold Ashanti “’ the world’s third-largest bullion producer “’ were scheduled to return to work last night at two mines where operations were suspended last week in a dispute over bonus payments.
Reuters reports that the disruptions underscored the residual tensions between management and staff despite the official resolution of the worst industrial unrest in the mining sector since the end of apartheid almost two decades ago.
Sit-in protests at the company’s TauTona and Mponeng mines, 65 km west of Johannesburg, had been resolved and it was now ramping up to full production at all of its other South African mines following weeks of wildcat stoppages, the company reported.
In the last three months, more than 80,000 miners have downed tools in platinum and gold mines, hitting growth in Africa’s biggest economy and exposing President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to heavy criticism for failing to manage labour relations.
More than 50 people have died “’ 34 of them shot dead by police “’ and the unrest is taking its toll on South Africa’s reputation as an investment destination.
Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have both lowered South Africa’s credit rating, citing a lack of political leadership and rising pressure on the government to throw money at the social problems spilling out of the mines.
Management threats of mass dismissals, along with pay sweeteners, have ended most of the strikes in the last two weeks but tensions at individual shafts are still simmering.
Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades at protesting miners in the platinum belt again last week, prompting more calls for calm from Zuma.
On Thursday, mining giant Xstrata dismissed 400 workers on an illegal strike at its Kroondal chrome mine that had shut down most of the plant.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s top producer of the precious metal, is still struggling to get more than 30,000 workers back to work, with an illegal strike at its Rustenburg operations now in its seventh week.
The strike has cost it 141,640oz of platinum so far.
One Gold Fields’ mine also remains shut while the company processes the appeals of 8,500 workers sacked for a non-sanctioned strike.
Junior miner Coal of Africa said it had agreed to up wages for workers at its Mooiplaats colliery by 26%, including allowances, following a legal strike at the mine.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.