South African Union Asks for End to 10-Day Mine Strike

South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers asked members to end an underground sit-in in its 10th day at a Village Main Reef Ltd. gold shaft and resolve their dispute through talks after a court order.

The strike began July 10 when about 100 workers refused to leave the Monarch Decline Shaft at the Consolidated Murchison gold and antimony mine in the northern province of Limpopo. The stoppage, including 918 striking workers in total, was declared unlawful by a labor court, Johannesburg-based Village said. Those underground have access to food, water and power.

“We advised them to come out so that the issues can be dealt with on the surface,” Lesiba Seshoka, an NUM spokesman, said today by mobile phone. They haven’t yet responded, he said.

The miners are demanding they be paid money from a trust set up by the company that sold the mine to Village in 2010. The mine hasn’t yet been in a position to pay returns from the trust because of recent investments, Village said.

Village and the NUM were parties to a framework agreement brokered by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to restore peace and stability to the mining industry after unrest shaved 0.5 percentage point off growth last year and cost the economy about 15 billion rand ($1.5 billion) in lost output.

As part of that accord, the government promised to enforce the rule of law, it said in a July 3 statement.

Unions, including the NUM, this week rejected a 4 percent wage increase offered by the Chamber of Mines, which negotiates on behalf of gold-mining companies. The NUM asked for a 61 percent raise for some entry-level employees.

Peaceful Dispute

The situation at the Village mine remained peaceful, Ferdi Dippenaar, head of its gold unit, said today by mobile phone. The company yesterday approached Chief of Police Riah Phiyega to help it end the strike and enforce the court order. “We remain in discussions,” Dippenaar said.

The police will try to resolve the standoff through talks, Hangwani Mulaudzi, the South African Police Service’s spokesman for Limpopo, said by mobile phone. “We don’t want a situation where we have to use force,” Mulaudzi said.

About 2,400 miners were trapped underground at Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s Thembelani operation in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, last month when some employees prevented them from returning to the surface. The dispute was resolved after one night on June 15.

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