Striking S.African miners agree to talks

Tens of thousands of striking workers at South Africa’s top three platinum producers have agreed to take part in government-brokered talks aimed at ending the dispute and limiting economic damage.

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The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, who led roughly 80,000 miners to down tools on Thursday, said it “will be part of the negotiations” tentatively planned for Friday.

The union went on a legal strike demanding entry-level wages be more than doubled to $US1,150 ($A1,300) and better working conditions.

“The strike is still going, there is no agreement, no settlement yet,” AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa cautioned on Thursday.

In a sign of how seriously the risk of economic damage and unrest is being taken in government, the talks are expected to be led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Top three companies Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin, had described AMCU’s demands as unrealistic and unaffordable.

But with share prices already pummelled by a wave of strikes that firms say cost them as much as $US1.2 billion in lost revenue, the companies welcomed the talks.

“We are committed to finding a positive and sustainable resolution to this dispute, and management continues to engage at all levels to seek agreement,” said Lonmin CEO Ben Magara.

But the walkout is still likely to bite.

Implats reported attendance as low as 10 per cent on Thursday at facilities in the platinum belt north of Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the firm expects “production to be impacted by the strike action”.

Lonmin said it expects losses to be in the region of 3100 ounces per day during the strike.

Fearing the industrial action could spark violence in a region where over 40 people were killed during a wildcat strike in 2012, mine owners began shuttering operations on Wednesday night.

Police have stepped up security, but also ordered the organisers of the industrial action to “ensure that their strike is peaceful and they adhere to the picketing rules”.

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