Lonmin, Workers to Resume Talks on Strike End Next Week

Lonmin Plc, 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 today 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 resume 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 ($1,488) 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.”

AMCU Quits

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.’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 this afternoon’s talks, President Joseph Mathunjwa said.

“I won’t be part of the process,” he told reporters in Rustenburg today. “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 murder of those shot on Aug. 16 because they were in the crowd that confronted the police with weapons, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing proceedings at the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrates Court today. Their trial has been postponed to Sept. 6, eNCA channel reported.

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

“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. On Aug. 24, she facilitated a meeting between Lonmin and labor organizations including the NUM, the emerging AMCU, Solidarity, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, to try to resolve the standoff with striking employees.

Platinum, used in jewelry and cars, has climbed 8.2 percent since the shooting, trading at $1,509.25 an ounce by 9:02 p.m. in London. The rand weakened 0.3 percent to 8.4353 against the dollar. Lonmin shares declined for a third day, losing 3.9 percent to 584.5 pence.

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