VENTURES AFRICA – An illegal miners’ strike is underway at AngloGold Ashanti’s operation at Kopanang as workers downed tools in a demand for wage increases, continuing unrest in South Africa’s mining sector.
Only a day after labourers returned to work at the infamous Lonmin mine at Marikana, another of South Africa’s mining giants is plagued with an illegal strike, as workers failed to report for duties on Friday’s night and morning shifts. While initially no demands were voiced, a National Union of Mineworks spokesperson Lesiba Sheshoka disclosed this afternoon that the miners would hold out until their wages are increased to 12,500 rand ($1,500) – the same figure originally demanded by the Lonmin strikers.
In an agreement reached on Tuesday night, miners at the Lonmin mine accepted a wage increase of between 11 and 22 per cent, however this increase did not reach the 12,500 rand asking price they initially stipulated. The increase was nonetheless a significant move on the part of Lonmin prompting immediate concern that the hike would cause a wave of dissatisfaction across the South African mining sector, and cause an increase in unrest at other mines.
This prediction has today proved correct, with the so-far largely unaffected AngloGold Ashanti facing an illegal, unprotected strike at open of work today. Following the declaration of the strikers’ demands, Sheshoka noted that: “The strike was not expected…But I think in one way or other we have come to expect similar protests, especially after the precedent that was set by Marikana with Lonmin acceding to the demands that were put forward.”
Currently employing over 5,000 workers at the Kopanang mine located 180 kilometres to the south-west of Johannesburg, Kopanang is estimated to account for almost a fifth of AngloGold Ashanti’s South African production figure, facing the company with a significant dilemma. With the labourers likely to continue their unprotected strike until their demands are met – resuming production will cause AngloGold a substantial financial burden. Lonmin has since its dispute settlement disclosed that the agreement will add 14 percent to the company’s overall wage costs as of this October, threatening the viability of a company that was already suffering significant financial pressures. A similar future now appears to await Anglogold.
Strikes are continuing around South Africa, taking on a new vehemence since the Lonmin strike was resolved. A wage-related strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) continues today, a week after it was initiated, with reports indicating a complete lack of workforce at the mine. Gold Fields is also experiencing strikes as 15,000 miners have failed to report to work over the past 12 days.
These on-going and new strikes fly in the face of calls earlier this week by President Zuma for employers and miners to follow the rule of law and peacefully negotiate better pay and working conditions for the labour force of South Africa’s vital mining sector, as the country counted up a 3.1 billion rand ($378 million) detriment on the back of the Lonmin cease to production.