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Mines under fire: Wage talks, mass action & intimidation

Amplats miners are expected to strike, while Lonmin wage talks are due to resume.

About 3,000 striking miners gathered in an open field near Anglo American mine’s Thembelani shaft on 12 September, 2012 in Rustenburg. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

RUSTENBURG/MARIKANA/DRIEFONTEIN - Miners at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine in Rustenburg will carry out a large demonstration on Thursday.

More than 6,000 miners downed tools on Wednesday, saying they want to bring the country's mining sector to a complete standstill.

Mineworkers have demanded that management increase their monthly salaries to R12,500 - a figure first demanded by Lonmin workers in Marikana, near Rustenburg.

The miners are representing themselves, after a fallout with the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) during previous wage negotiations.

They have organised a strike committee which will lead Thursday's mass action.

Committee member Sphamandla Makhanya says "all miners" in the North West were expected to join today's strike.

He says their aim to recruit all of South Africa's miners to down tools, leading to the shutdown of all operations.

Amplats management on Wednesday claimed its employees were not on strike, saying protesters from neighbouring mines were to blame for the intimidation and violence.

They halted production at the mine on Wednesday afternoon, following reports that demonstrators were intimidating Amplats employees.

MARIKANA WAGE TALKS

Meanwhile, disgruntled employees from Lonmin's Marikana mine anticipate management to make an official wage offer on Thursday, which they hope will pave the way to a peaceful resolution.

Lonmin miners embarked on an illegal strike a month ago, demanding a significant salary increase.

Violent attacks flared up a week into the strike, with 44 people, including miners and two policemen, being killed. Another body was discovered on Tuesday, pushing the death toll to 45.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration has called on Lonmin stakeholders, including employees and unions, to meet and negotiate a deal that will end the ongoing strike and have workers return to work.

On Wednesday, the Western Platinum mine said less than two percent of its workforce reported for duty.

Striking workers have said they will only return to work when management puts an offer on the table. They say even a lower increase than the one they are demanding will show management's efforts to resolve the dispute.

The CCMA has promised to not withdraw from talks, despite vowing to do so earlier in the week.

It believes it still has a vital role to play in the wage dispute between management and workers.

GOLD FIELDS STRIKE CONTINUES

It is not only the platinum mining sector which has been affected by industrial action. About 15,000 staff members at Gold Fields KDC West mine in Driefontein are expected to continue with their illegal strike as well.

They say their issues with management include more than just low salaries.

They downed tools on Monday, demanding workers compensation for those who died at the mine's site and a R12,500 basic salary.

The workers are unhappy the mine has failed to compensate families whose relatives had died at the mine.

On Wednesday, police were forced to use tear gas to disperse the ferocious crowd, after reports of intimidation at several mineshafts.

Gold Fields miners say working conditions at the mine are extremely dangerous and that the increasing deaths there are worrying.

They were also angry Gold Fields management snubbed a scheduled meeting where they hoped to share their grievances with their bosses.

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