South African Strikes Swell as Moody’s Cuts Country’s Rating

The number of South African workers on strike soared to about 140,000 this week as protests that have halted 39 percent of the country’s gold production and led to 46 deaths spread.

A “large majority” of the 35,000 workers at AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (ANG)’s operations in the biggest African producer of the precious metal remain on an unofficial strike, Alan Fine, a company spokesman, said by phone.

More than 20,000 workers at Gold Fields Ltd. (GFI), the continent’s second-biggest producer, continued an illegal strike today, Willie Jacobsz, a company spokesman, said in a phone interview from Johannesburg. “There is an overall increase in intimidation, violence and threats at the striking mine sites over the past 48 hours.”

Gold Fields has no plans at this stage to negotiate with the striking workers, Chief Executive Officer Nick Holland said on Johannesburg-based SAFM radio yesterday.

“At some point we may decide to exercise our rights that we have and proceed to dismissals, I don’t rule that out as an option,” he said according to a transcipt of the interview.

Industrial action, which has spread across South Africa since about 3,000 workers at the third-biggest platinum producer Lonmin Plc (LMI) walked out Aug. 10, have closed mines in the country that has the largest chrome and platinum reserves.

Moody’s Investors Service cited the government’s “reduced capacity to handle the current political and economic situation” when it cut South African government debt for the first time since the end of apartheid yesterday.

About 60,000 workers employed by Road Freight Association members are striking, Gavin Kelly, a spokesman for the industry body, said in an e-mailed response to a query yesterday.

“Several mine vehicles have been damaged,” in violent incidents at Gold Fields mines in the past two days, said Jacobsz.

Workers are also striking at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS)’s Rustenburg operations. The world’s biggest producer of the metal said it’s started disciplinary action against the strikers that could lead to their dismissal.

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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