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Platinum Companies to Resume Talks Over South African Strike

The world’s three largest platinum companies and the biggest union at their mines in South Africa will this week resume talks to try to end a strike that has crippled production for more than 20 weeks.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union late last week accepted a pay proposal “in principle” from Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc. The AMCU has said it put conditions to the companies before agreeing to a deal. A Reuters report that stated the parties had reached an agreement was incorrect, Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala, said today by phone.

“Discussions are expected between the union and the companies in the day or two ahead,” Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the producers at Johannesburg-based Russell and Associates, said in an e-mail. The union and company negotiating teams didn’t meet up today, Theron said.

Workers have been on strike since Jan. 23 demanding a doubling of basic pay. The three companies said they have lost 23 billion rand ($2 billion) in revenue in the longest and costliest mining strike in South Africa, source of about 70 percent of the global mined production of platinum.

The union’s original demand was for basic monthly salaries for the lowest-paid workers to rise to 12,500 rand immediately. The producers’ latest offer includes an annual increase in the monthly wage of as much as 1,000 rand.

Brian Ashley, a director at the Cape Town-based Alternative Information & Development Centre and adviser to AMCU during wage talks, said the union submitted responses to employers’ offers over the long weekend. Yesterday was a public holiday.

The two sides are now close and just need to do some “panelbeating” on the company wage proposals, Ashley said. The union is likely to discuss the offers with its members before the end of the week, he said. AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa and Treasurer Jimmy Gama didn’t answer phone calls seeking comment.

Platinum fell 0.3 percent to $1,431.68 an ounce by 5:23 p.m. in London, paring its 2014 gain to 4.4 percent. Palladium rose 0.6 percent to $815.25 an ounce. Anglo American Platinum gained 0.9 percent to 476.70 rand, Impala fell 1.2 percent to 112.62 rand and Lonmin climbed 0.3 percent to 247.6 pence.

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