Johannesburg - A gold miners' strike has ended after workers at Harmony Gold [JSE:HAR] accepted a final wage offer, the country's second-largest producer of the precious metal said Sunday.
Tens of thousands of gold miners went on strike over pay on Tuesday night, but most had already returned to work after agreeing wage deals of between 7.5% and 8.0%.
Workers at Harmony's mines in the Free State and Northern Cape initially held out for a better deal, but the company said they now accepted.
"Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have accepted the same offer made by other producers in the industry, and have returned to work," Harmony Gold said in a statement.
Gold remains a key industry for the economy, employing around 140 000 people and accounting for 10% of export earnings and 3% of the Gross Domestic Product.
But falling gold prices, a declining grade of ore and increased costs such as electricity and wages, have drained revenues.
Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said the present wage agreement was "in the interests of long term industrial relations stability", yet warned such hikes could not be repeated.
"Continued industrial action will make this increase unaffordable, and place the future viability of some of our operations under threat. This, in turn, could have an impact on jobs," he said.
"Harmony would like to urge all its employees who had embarked on strike to start reporting for work as from tonight [Sunday]," the company said in a statement, according to Sapa.
NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said the union is still in consultation with members and will be finalising everything with employers on Monday.
Under the a two-year offer, category four and five employees, and rock drill operators would receive increases of 8% and other employees 7.5%, with effect from July 1 2013.
Employees would also receive inflation-linked increases with effect from July 1 next year, Strydom said.
The current monthly living out allowance of R1 640 would increase to R2 000 in two R180 steps, on September 1 this year, and again next year.
Negotiators resolved the wage dispute in a fairly short time after the strikes started, averting a repeat of the protracted and violent stoppages that shook the country a year ago.
AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], Gold Fields [JSE:GFI], Rand Uranium, Sibanye Gold and Village Main Reef were
affected by the strike.