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Strikes catch miners off guard

Sep 13 2012 10:33

Johannesburg - Susan Shabangu, the Mineral Resources Minister, said the country's mining companies were "caught napping" by the series of strikes in the platinum sector, and has promised to apply the terms of the updated mining charter with greater force.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Shabangu criticised mining companies for failing to anticipate a "complete twist" in labour relations. She added the mining charter had been treated like a "gentleman's agreement".

She also believed the industrial action, which resulted in Anglo Platinum (Amplats) yesterday suspending production at five of its six shafts in the Rustenburg region, was becoming a trend.

“We had already noticed that we need to be tough when we decided to review the (mining) act but, with Marikana, it’s like justifying the reason to be tougher,” Shabangu told the Financial Times.

“We are going to regulate it (the mining charter) now. We were avoiding that because we thought we were dealing with adults, mature people who understand. We will make it to be enforced, and if not, serious penalties must happen,” she said.

Government's voice has largely been muted throughout the strike action which has its roots in a six-week strike in March when the Associated Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu) led a violent strike at Impala Platinum.

However, Shabangu told the newspaper that government was taking action in association with the mining industry.

“We are engaging with them (the miners) through the Department of Labour, but the biggest challenge is to be able to say what are the other issues,” she said.

Shabangu added: "This is a country which has a history of mining and it’s not a good history because it’s a history of mining which never cared.

“And that history has to be changed. Any individual who wants to come into this space and invest has to come with a different mindset.”

Tensions in the industry have also been stoked further by expelled ANC youth league leader Julius Malema who has vowed to make mines "ungovernable".

But Shabangu dismissed Malema as a “rabble-rouser” and reiterated the government’s stance on nationalisation, saying it was "no longer a factor" for the ANC.

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