'Platinum wage deal will be sealed this weekend'

Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi says the parties concerned are working very hard to resolve the strike.

Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - As the platinum strike stretches towards its sixth month, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi says he expects a deal to be concluded this weekend.

An agreement in principle was reached between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and platinum producers last week but after consulting with its members, the union has introduced new pay demands beyond the agreement.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has labelled the additional demands as unaffordable.

The additional demands are understood to be related to a R3,000 once-off payment, increases in living-out allowances and the implementation of the agreement over a three-year period.

When Ramatlhodi withdrew from mediated talks he said that an agreement was imminent.

The newly-appointed minister had vowed to end the mining sector's longest-ever strike as his first act in his new job.

More than a week after the in-principle agreement was reached, the strike is still ongoing, but Ramatlhodi says he expects it to end this weekend.

"I think the strike will be over this weekend. I have been talking to the parties concerned and they are really working very hard against the clock to seal the deal."

It's understood Amcu has already met with Amplats and Impala Platinum (Implats) and talks with Lonmin will continue today.

Around 70,000 Amcu members at Lonmin, Implats and Amplats went on strike in January demanding an entry level salary of R12,500.

The action has halted mines that normally account for 40 percent of global platinum output and has hit the country's overall GDP, pushing it into contraction in the first quarter of the year.

It has also been mentioned by ratings agency Standard & Poor's as one of the reasons South Africa's credit rating was downgraded.

South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world's known platinum reserves.

Meanwhile, platinum companies have seen a significant upsurge in the number of people returning to work on the platinum belt this week.