Strikes Affect Gold & Platinum Production

A six-week strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine northwest of Johannesburg turned deadly this month.

Bloomberg News reports that 39% of gold mining output in South Africa – the world’s former #1 producer – has been closed after fresh wildcat strikes hit gold majors AngloGold (Stock Profile – NYSE:AZ & ASX:AGG) and Gold Fields (Stock Profile – NYSE:GFI).

New wage demands handed to managers at Anglo yesterday ask for 16,000 to 18,500 Rand per month. Rock drill operators currently average some 10,000 Rand according to local press – equivalent to US$1200.

The world’s third largest gold mining firm, Anglo has now suspended at all of its South African operations according to the Independent Online.

Over in platinum – where South Africa remains the world’s #1 producer, and where this year’s “strike season” first broke – the CEO of Anglo American Platinum (Stock Profile – OTC:AGPPY) said Wednesday that Amplats “will not negotiate” with workers on illegal strike at its key Rustenburg operation.

Last week, wildcat strikers won a 22% raise from platinum producer Lonmin (Stock Profile – LSE:LMI), whose Marikana mine saw 34 workers killed by police in rioting this month.

“There’s no question it has caused massive damage to us and incredible damage to South Africa’s mining sector,” says Albert Wocke, associate professor at University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science.

With formal unions, all closely tied to the ruling ANC party, cut out of Lonmin’s negotiations, “The government needs to step up and reassure investors,” says Wocke.

“We have got an unstable, almost unpredictable regulatory regime.”

Political analyst William Gumede, also speaking to the LA Times, warns that “The biggest red flag is that people might actually start losing their trust in democracy as a protective mechanism.”

After the deaths at Marikana , “I think the police will feel constrained,” Gumede adds, “in how they deal with these strikes now.”

By Raphael Thurber

Raphael Thurber is a respected resource writer and editor. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Raphael is a longtime contributor to Yahoo Finance, with an interest in resource and investment journalism that spans over 10 years. As Editor of MiningFeeds, Raphael is responsible for assuring that the site remains a valuable knowledge resource for those in the mining sector.

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