Lonmin, Workers to Resume Talks on Strike End Next Week

Lonmin Plc (LMI), the third-biggest platinum producer, will next week resume government-mediated talks with workers and unions to end a strike that has shut its Marikana complex in South Africa for three weeks.

“The issues that have been discussed are of a vast nature and have required several processes and various engagements, with different constituencies in the process,” the parties said yesterday in an e-mailed statement following the second day of talks in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg. Worker representatives will report back to their colleagues and discussions will continue at 2 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Most of the 28,000 miners at Marikana have stayed away since police shot dead 34 protesters at the operation on Aug. 16 after 10 people died in fighting during the illegal strike by about 3,000 rock drillers that started Aug. 10. Union rivalry and pay disputes are stoking unrest at platinum mines in South Africa, which has the world’s largest known reserves.

The drillers are going directly to the company with demands, saying the dominant National Union of Mineworkers, South Africa’s largest labor group, didn’t take their request to raise wages to 12,500 rand ($1,491) a month to management.

Rock-drill operators earn “just shy of 10,000 rand” a month, Lonmin said Aug. 24. In addition, they can earn performance bonuses which average 1,500 rand “but some are in the order of 6,000 rand.”

Worker attendance at Marikana declined to 5.7 percent today, Lonmin said in an e-mailed statement.

AMCU Quits

Gold Fields Ltd., the world’s fourth-biggest producer of the metal, said all 12,000 workers at the East section of its Kloof-Driefontein operation, Africa’s largest gold-mining complex, started an illegal strike on Aug. 29. It’s the biggest unprotected stoppage in at least three years.

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP)’s Rustenburg operation, the world’s biggest mine of the metal, had a stoppage of as long as six weeks from mid-January when rock-drill operators started a strike, demanding higher pay. The company said conflict caused by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s efforts to recruit NUM members caused the strike.

AMCU, which has about 5,000 members at Marikana’s Karee mine and isn’t included in a two-year wage agreement that ends in October next year, was excluded from yesterday afternoon’s talks, President Joseph Mathunjwa said.

“I won’t be part of the process,” he told reporters in Rustenburg yesterday. “Let them continue as they wish.”

Lonmin has lost 2,500 ounces of platinum daily by closing Marikana, which comprises 96 percent of the company’s output, hampering its ability to meet the conditions set by creditors on its borrowings.

Murder Charges

The 270 workers arrested for violence at Marikana have been charged with the murders of the 44 killed because they were in crowds that confronted the police with weapons, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Frank Lesenyego said. Their trial has been postponed to Sept. 6, he said by phone.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe demanded the NPA give him the reasons for applying an apartheid-era law used to crack down on protesters to charge the miners. Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting national director of public prosecutions, will decided on the suitability of the charges after receiving a report from the North West provincial prosecutor, who laid the charges, her office said in an e-mailed statement.

While South Africa needs to deal urgently with wide inequality that may foment revolution, the violence at Lonmin won’t deter investment in the industry, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said.

Shares Drop

“Mining is unique in the sense that you can’t take it to another country,” Motlanthe said. “Investors know that. They are also aware that the industrial relations in South Africa actually produce a very stable work milieu. We don’t expect that investors would be put off or discouraged by these tragic developments in Marikana.”

Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant met with striking workers on Aug. 28. She mediated a meeting between Lonmin and labor organizations including the NUM, the emerging AMCU, Solidarity, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions on Aug. 24 to try to resolve the standoff with striking employees.

Platinum, used in jewelry and cars, has climbed 9.5 percent since the shooting, and was trading at $1,527.63 an ounce by 4:42 p.m. in London. The rand gained 1.1 percent to 8.3785 against the dollar. Lonmin dropped for a fourth day, losing 2 percent to 573 pence in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Johannesburg at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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