Johannesburg - AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG] suspended
operations at one of its mines on Friday, a sign that labour tensions continue
to bubble in the sector despite the official resolution to end weeks of wildcat
The world’s third-largest bullion producer said workers
halted production at its TauTona mine, 65km west of Johannesburg, with a sit-in
protest over bonus payments.
“There are about 300 people doing a sit-in underground.
Management is talking to them,” spokesperson Alan Fine said.
Another sit-in at the company’s Mponeng mine ended on
Thursday but operations were only expected to resume on Sunday night as some
repairs needed to be carried out, he added.
In the last three months, more than 80 000 miners have
downed tools in the most damaging mining unrest since the end of apartheid in
The stoppages have hit platinum and gold output, threatening
economic growth and have exposed President Jacob Zuma and the ANC to criticism
for failing to manage labour relations.
More than 50 people have died - most of them shot dead by
police - and the unrest has harmed South Africa’s reputation as an investment
Management threats of mass dismissals, along with pay
sweeteners, have ended most of the strikes in the last two weeks, but tensions
at individual mines are still simmering.
On Thursday, global diversified mining firm Xstrata
dismissed 400 workers on an illegal strike at its Kroondal chrome mine that had
shut down most of the plant.
Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] (Amplats), the world’s top producer
of the precious metal, is still struggling to get more 30 000 workers back to
work, with an illegal strike at its Rustenburg operations now in its seventh
The strike has cost it 141 640 ounces of platinum so far.
Amplats' chief executive Chris Griffith said on Thursday the
platinum industry was in “severe financial distress” and that high wage settlements
to get wildcat strikers back to work would lead to job cuts.
Miners have been emboldened by an increase of up to 22% in
wages given by platinum producer Lonmin [JSE:LON] to end a strike at its
Marikana mine, where police killed 34 miners on August 16.
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.
The SA Reserve Bank and finance ministry have warned that
double digit pay increases could be inflationary. Further job losses in the
industry are also expected to push up an unemployment rate already at 25.5%.
Even though Zuma’s handling of the unrest has caused
internal party concern, he remains favourite to win re-election at an ANC
leadership conference in December, teeing him up for another five years as
national president from 2014.