Friedland raises industry ire over wages claim – by David McKay ( – December 20, 2013)

[] – IVANHOE Mines president and flamboyant mining promoter, Robert Friedland, has raised the ire of his platinum industry counterparts in South Africa following comments to reporters that his company would outstrip wages paid to miners on his company’s Flatreef platinum project in South Africa by an “order of magnitude”.

“In a platinum mine in South Africa today, you have to crawl on your hands and knees on that broken rock for several hundred metres to get to the working phase,” Friedland said at a conference in a report by Reuters.

“It’s pretty claustrophobic, the men are working with muscle power, they are getting silicosis, they are breathing what they are drilling and they are tired of doing it for $12 (R120) a day. I don’t think they are going to do it for much longer, and I don’t think they should.”

“You have heard of blood diamonds for example, or Apple getting criticised for what people get paid, or you see Gap stores get worried for what people get paid in Bangladesh for sewing your clothing. Similarly it is just not viable to pay these workers $12 a day,” he said.

Johan Theron, spokesman for Impala Platinum (Implats) thinks the figures don’t add up. “I don’t know how this fortune hunter gets to R120/day,” he says.

“By my reckoning, with an 8% increase this year, we are paying a minimum underground basic wage of R5,940 per month at Implats and a surface basic rate of R5,332/month,” he says.

That’s just the basic however. It’s often misunderstood the extent to which other benefits are paid, and what they are.
Add to a surface workers’ guaranteed R5,940 per month an additional R444 holiday allowance, R2,000 in a living out allowance and a R861 pension. There are also medical aid contributions, shift allowances, overtime assistance, and production and safety incentives to factor into the salary equation. The monthly income is therefore closer to R8,637.

For underground occupations, the minimum guaranteed monthly remuneration is R9,394 per month, and R11,479/month for rock drill operators, says Theron.

A monthly income of R8,637 is about R254/day and at least R411/day if one considers the other elements – a stark contrast to Friedland’s estimate of R120/day he believes South African miners pay workers. And if Friedland is to pay an order of magnitude, the expectation is that Friedland’s Ivanhoe Mines will be paying R4,110/day or just over R83,000 per month.

The heated response to Friedland’s comments is that they come at a highly sensitive time for platinum miners. About three-quarters of the industry is facing disputes over wages which could materialise into strike action in the early months of 2014.

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