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Implats: Strike talks to resume on Friday

The company also released its results today, reporting an 11 percent rise in half-year profits.

FILE: Amcu members go on strike on the platinum belt. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Talks between the world's top three platinum producers and The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) will resume on Friday in an effort to end a five-week stoppage over wages, Impala Platinum (Implats) says.

The industrial action has taken out more than 40 percent of global output of the precious metal used to make catalytic converters for automobiles and threatens to derail the sector's recovery after damaging wildcat strikes in 2012.

Implats, the world's second-largest producer behind Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), reported an 11 percent rise in half-year profit on Thursday.

However, the latest strike in the heart of the platinum belt, north west of Johannesburg, is costing the company 2,800 ounces a day in lost production and R60 million a day in revenue.

Amcu have also downed tools at Amplats and Lonmin.

CEO Terence Goodlace told reporters on Thursday that he had recently spoken directly with the union's President Joseph Mathunjwa.

That the two sides are talking at the top level signals a renewed drive to end the stoppage, though the companies and Amcu remain poles apart on the issue of wages.

Goodlace reiterated that demands for a more than doubling of basic wages to R12,500 a month are "absolutely unobtainable".

The producers have offered increases of up to nine percent.

NO DIVIDEND

Implats reported headline earnings per share up 10,8 percent to R860 million, or 142 cents per share, in the six months to 31 December.

It said that lower metal prices over the period "were more than offset by the weaker average rand-dollar exchange rate, which benefits South African mining companies that price their commodity in dollars.

The company's Zimbabwe unit, Zimplats, has been a bright spot, with platinum sales for the period rising more than 63 percent to 115,800 ounces.

Implats, however, cannot avoid the shadow cast by the wage dispute at its key Rustenburg operations.

"Given the current industrial relations climate and as part of the group's cash preservation measures, the board has decided not to declare an interim dividend," Implats said.

Goodlace said the stoppage is a blow to the company's recovery efforts. "It does stunt what we achieved," he acknowledged, adding that it will take time to reboot operations once a resolution is found.

During a subsequent presentation he said it could take "one or two months" to restore production to pre-strike levels because workers would have to be retrained and many steps, including safety procedures, would need to be taken.

The strike has been marred by violence, though not on the scale of 2012, when dozens of people were killed.

The poisonous atmosphere was underscored by a police statement on Wednesday that said two AMCU members have been charged with attempted murder in relation to an attack on a non-striking employee at Amplats' Khuseleka shaft when he arrived for work on 3 February.

The union members are alleged to have stripped the Amplats employee before taking him to a dumping site where he was assaulted with stones, the police statement said.

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