Tue, Sep 18, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Work recommences at strike-hit Amplats mine following major police crackdown

Reuters, JOHANNESBURG

A man is arrested by police at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa’s North West Province on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said it was to resume work today at its strike-hit Rustenburg operations, just days after South Africa’s government launched a crackdown to disarm miners and end five weeks of labor unrest.

Amplats, the world’s top producer of the precious metal, suspended some of its operations last week after strikers marched on shafts near Rustenburg, 100km northwest of Johannesburg.

“The situation in Rustenburg remains calm and our current intention is to resume operations on Tuesday … which will provide time for the government to implement further security measures,” the company said on Sunday.

Following a government promise to get tough on miners, police raided a Lonmin PLC hostel early on Saturday and seized spears, machetes and other weapons from strikers.

South African President Jacob Zuma’s government, after weeks of drawing accusations of responding too slowly, said on Friday it would clamp down on “illegal gatherings” and go after armed miners.

The army has also been asked to help the police, who used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse miners following the Saturday raid.

In Marikana, near Rustenburg, police last month opened fire on striking miners killing 34 of them in a single day, the bloodiest police action in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. A total of 45 people have been killed in the unrest.

Sparked by the strike at a Lonmin mine in Marikana, the crisis has poisoned industrial relations in Africa’s largest economy and choked platinum output. South Africa accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s production of the precious metal.

Lonmin, which was due to resume talks yesterday with strikers who rejected a pay rise offer last week, on Sunday insisted it could not meet the workers’ demands, but promised a new approach in labor relations.

Acting chief executive Simon Scott said in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Times newspaper that the deaths of protesters had been a “wake-up call” for the company and it would improve discussions with strikers.

“For Lonmin, the starting point is to acknowledge that our company must go through a process of self-reflection,” Scott said.

“What I can promise is that we are committed to playing our part. We have had our wake-up call, as has the rest of South Africa,” he added.

On Friday, workers at the mine dismissed the company’s offer as way below the 12,500 rand (US$1,510) a month sought by members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is challenging the influence of the more established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Wage talks at Lonmin were expected to resume yesterday morning. Scott, who has been acting chief executive while Ian Farmer has been on sick leave since last month, reiterated the company’s position that the 12,500 rand would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the viability of the business and would cost the company 2.3 billion rand, he said.

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