Johannesburg - Strikers at AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG] have until noon on Wednesday to return to work or risk being dismissed, the company said.
"Failure to return to work, in order that we resume normal operations, will result in the issue of notices of dismissal to any and all employees who have not complied with the ultimatum," CEO Mark Cutifani said during a conference call on Monday.
"It is regretful that matters have reached this stage, with job losses now being threatened and livelihoods for thousands of families being placed at risk."
Miners who failed to return to work would be issued dismissal letters and would be allowed to appeal.
Those who returned to work would receive the improved wage offer that was communicated to all employees by AngloGold Ashanti and separately by elected union representatives.
AngloGold Ashanti miners have been on strike since September for a monthly salary of R16 000.
"The strike continues at the balance of our operations and it has become clear that we now need to take new steps to try and break this backlog to encourage a rapid return to the normality of those mines," Cutifani said.
"With every day that this unprofessional strike drags on no salaries are paid, production is lost and crucially working places in these mines deteriorate, becoming potentially unsafe."
He added that the strikes in the mining sector had caused extensive damage to South Africa's reputation as an investment destination.
Around 7500 workers had already returned to work but 17 500 were still on strike, the company said.
AngloGold Ashanti was losing around 32 000 ounces of production a week.
"The company has engaged with striking workers in a respectful and honest way throughout this period, despite the fact that the work stoppage is unprocedural and unprotected," it said in a statement.
"AngloGold Ashanti has continued to seek dialogue and compromise, including the offer of a fair and reasonable salary package improvement through the established bargaining system."
The Congress of the SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) expressed anger at the move.
"The crisis that has engulfed the mining industry is primarily the fault of the employers themselves and they should not attempt to take short-cuts to avoid it."
Cosatu said had miners not been paid a "pittance" the strikes would have been avoided.
"If the mining bosses do not accede to this demand, the totality of the capitalist class will face the full might of organised workers and also will face stiff resistance in every corner of the economy," Cosatu said.
The union federation called for all workers in the country to stage a protest in solidarity with striking miners.
Anglo American Platinum fired 12 000 strikers after they failed to appear at a disciplinary hearing.
More than 8000 workers involved in an illegal strike at Gold Fields' KDC East mine would be fired if they failed to return to work on Monday night and Tuesday morning, the company said.