MINERS at Eastern Platinum (Eastplats) in South Africa came out on strike yesterday, alongside the striking Marikana miners, in a sign that the strike in South Africa’s platinum belt is spreading.
Eastplats operations are near the Marikana site, run by world’s third largest producer, Lonmin, where 34 miners were shot down and killed by police 12 days ago.
Lonmin said that just 13 per cent of miners went into work yesterday despite a heavy police presence outside the mine, against the picket.
Many platinum miners have left the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in recent weeks, accusing it of having too close ties to the bosses and the government, and they have joined the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
The Marikana strike began earlier this month when more than 3,000 rock drillers went on strike in support of demands for an increase in pay from their current earnings of between 4,000 and 5,000 rand ($484-$605) a month to 12,500 rand ($1,512).
In contrast Lonmin chief executive, Ian Farmer, collected pay and bonuses of £1.2 million last year.
Lonmin PLC (formerly Lonrho, based in London), the international privateer owner of the Marikana mine, is pushing for a return to ‘business as usual’.
It issued a company statement at the weekend, bemoaning the fact that it is losing 15,000 ounces of production every week and calling for a resumption of operations at Marikana mine.
It claimed: ‘The company has always said, and maintains, that it will discuss the strikers’ demands in the normal way, through their unions within the agreements which the company and all unions involved have signed up to, but that requires the unprotected action to end. It has never refused to consider their demands.’
The company claimed that more than one-half of its 28,000 employees were present for their scheduled shifts on Saturday, but that still wasn’t enough to resume operations.
Mining accounts for about 18 per cent of South Africa’s gross domestic product, according to the country’s Chamber of Mines, but the miners live in dilapidated shantytowns surrounding their work sites without water, electricity and basic amenities.