AngloGold Strike Starts as S. Africa Mine Unrest Spreads

AngloGold Strike Starts as South Africa Mine Unrest Spreads
A record 22 percent pay rise for employees at Lonmin Plc after an illegal six-week strike and the worst mine violence since apartheid fueled concern more miners will use violence or unauthorized stoppages to press wage demands. Photographer: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

South African labor unrest in the platinum industry spread to AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s third-largest gold producer, halting a second gold mine after Gold Fields Ltd.’s KDC West was stopped 13 days ago.

The strike at Kopanang started late yesterday and no demands have been made by workers, Alan Fine, a spokesman for Johannesburg-based AngloGold, said by phone.

Miners mainly on the country’s platinum belt northwest of Johannesburg have bypassed conventional wage-talk routes through labor unions, starting illegal pay strikes and protests that have left at least 46 dead since Aug. 10. Lonmin Plc workers, who halted the Marikana mine for six weeks, secured pay rises of more than four times the August inflation rate of 5 percent.

Anglo American Plc’s platinum unit, the world’s largest producer of the metal, had set an ultimatum for workers to return by late Sept. 20. Miners stayed away after the company said a voluntary suspension of its Rustenburg operations ended Sept. 18. Spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said today a statement will be issued later.

“Lonmin’s headline pay settlement is the new benchmark for mineworkers, and unions are hard-pressed to control the negotiations in this more militant and potentially violent stoppage,” Fairfax I.S. Plc said in a note today. “The stakes are very high as failure to reach an agreed deal could result in strike-related intimidation, violence and fatalities.”

Wage Review

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the second-largest producer of the metal, said it’s undertaking a “full review” of wages as workers made fresh pay demands after the company boosted wages in April as part of a deal that ended a six-week strike at its Rustenburg operation, the world’s largest platinum mine, in January and February.

At AngloGold, the strike is currently confined to a single mine, the company said in a statement. AngloGold produces about 32 percent of its gold in South Africa, where mining accounts for about 8.8 percent of gross domestic product.

Work stoppages this year have cost the continent’s largest economy 4.5 billion rand ($543 million) in lost output, South African President Jacob Zuma said in Johannesburg on Sept. 16. The nation produces 75 percent of the world’s platinum.

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