South Africa wildcat strikes spread to more mines

Wed Oct 3, 2012 1:54pm GMT
 

By Ed Stoddard and Agnieszka Flak

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A series of wildcat miners' strikes in South Africa spread to a new sector, iron ore, on Wednesday and hit another gold firm in an escalation of the labour unrest that is testing President Jacob Zuma's leadership.

The industrial action at Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of global miner Anglo American, further dented investor confidence in the continent's wealthiest economy as it showed the protests had moved beyond platinum and gold mines.

Workers at the Kusasalethu mine near Johannesburg, operated by South Africa's No. 3 bullion producer Harmony Gold, also downed tools in what management called an "unlawful" action launched outside the normal collective bargaining channels.

Zuma is under fire for failing to address and contain the workers' protests demanding wage increases, which stem in large part from glaring wealth inequalities persisting in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

As many as 75,000 miners, or 15 percent of the South African mining sector's total workforce, are already out on strike, while a national truckers' stoppage is squeezing fuel suppliers. Analysts said if it lasts another week, some petrol stations could run dry and some banks' ATMs could run out of cash.

Kumba, one of the world's top 10 iron ore producers, said the wildcat strike at its giant Sishen Mine in the Northern Cape involved only 300 employees and was limited to one area in the open cast mine, leaving most of the facility unaffected.

"The action is being dealt with in line with the Company's labour relations procedure, with due consideration to the safety of the vast majority of workers who are not taking part in the unprotected strike," Kumba said in a statement.

Kumba's share price was over 4 percent lower on the news.   Continued...

Mine workers take part in a march at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa's North West Province September 10, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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