South Africa: Marikana Miners Return to Work amid Spread of Unrest
By Staff Wrter
Johannesburg--- Miners at the embattled Marikana platinum mines are resuming duty after striking a pay rise deal that ends weeks of protests that saw about 44 people die.
The British-owned Lonmin platinum mines in Marikana is the scene of the deadly clashes last month that saw 34 miners gunned down by police after the workers went on wildcat strike in demand of higher pay. Unrest over pay increase has since spread to other mines across South Africa, rocking the country’s highly lucrative mining industry.
The deadly clashes have been blamed on union rivalry between The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which has seen formidable violence at platinum mines since January.
On Tuesday,the striking miners agreed with owner of Lonmin on a 22 % increase of their current pay and are set to resume work on Thursday after six weeks of closure of operations at the mines.
The Marikana pay deal has raised fear that it could encourage other miners to go on strike. On Wednesday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters near a mine owned by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), world’s largest platinum producer.
A labour activist said that workers at Amplats who had gone on strike last week, were inspired by Lonmin and would press on with their demands, even though the company issued a Thursday ultimatum to the striking workers to end the illegal strike or face court pursuit.
President Jacob Zuma who has been under criticism over the government’s handling of the crisis, has expressed relief following the Marikana deal, saying the disruption had cost the industry $548m in lost output.
The striking miners who currently earn between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($486-$608) a month, were demanding their salary increased to 12,500 rand.
Since the August 16 shooting, world platinum prices have risen more than 10 per cent, with also listed shares of Lonmin in Johannesburg and London stock exchanges dropping by more than 15 percent in value.
Over the week the Lonmin shares rose more than 9% following the pay deal have since lost most of the gain as the reality of the extra costs to a company hopping to recover from the big losses incurred during the industrial action come out.