South African output of platinum group metals sank by more than a third, the most in two years, as a strike crippled the world’s three-biggest producers.
Production of the metals fell 36 percent in February, Juan-Pierre Terblanche, a spokesman for Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa, said by phone today. That was the biggest decrease since February 2012, when workers walked out at Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. for six weeks. The decline caused total mining output to drop 4.8 percent from a year ago.
A strike by more than 70,000 miners at Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala and Lonmin Plc entered its 12th week today as the companies reject demands to double entry-level wages to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month in four years. The producers offered the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the largest labor group at the operations, raises of as much as 9 percent.
The stoppage is taking its toll, “with inventory levels likely to be wearing thin,” BNP Paribas SA said in an e-mailed note. “We expect this to reflect in the mining production figures over the next three to four months at least and to begin showing up more prominently in the country’s export figures given that PGMs account for around 16 percent of total exports.”
The companies have lost 12.4 billion rand of revenue from the strike and workers forfeited 5.5 billion rand in wages, according to a website set up by the producers.
Talks between the AMCU and platinum producers have been scheduled, union General Secretary Jeff Mphahlele said today by phone. He didn’t disclose any dates.
“We hope the strike should be settled soon,” he said.
Producers and the AMCU were in constant discussions even though these were not on a formal basis, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Johannesburg-based Impala, the second-largest producer, said by phone.
“We’re waiting for the union to make a concession” before the companies go to South Africa’s state mediator, Theron said. The mediator dismissed talks between the parties on March 5.