S. Africa Mining Unrest Overshadows Major Conference – by Anita Powell (Voice of America – January 30, 2014)


JOHANNESBURG — Unrest in South Africa’s mining sector is overshadowing the nation’s largest mining event, scheduled for next week in Cape Town. Investors are worried that a union leading a platinum mining strike has failed to reach a deal, and economic justice activists say the system is flawed.

The annual Mining Indaba — the Zulu word for “gathering” — is undoubtedly the biggest mining sector event in the nation. It brings together industry leaders, government officials and investors to discuss billion-dollar deals in an industry that claims the lion’s share of South Africa’s economy. But this year’s Indaba is overshadowed by strife in the mining sector.

South Africa’s most powerful platinum mining union launched an indefinite strike on January 23. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, AMCU, is demanding to almost double the minimum wage for entry-level miners, to about $1,200 per month.

Negotiations are ongoing as some 70,000 workers in the nation’s “platinum belt” have stopped work. The three largest platinum producers — Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin – say the wage demand is unsustainable, and say the strike is costing them more than $17 million per day combined.

Mining Indaba Vice President and Managing Director Jonathan Moore says the strike is a topic of concern for investors — and will be discussed at the gathering.

“The thing that we hear from investors frequently is that they are seeking a scenario where there is consistency and transparency so that they can best assess the opportunities that they have to make investments,” Moore said. “And so, anytime that there is unrest, anytime there are disruptions, I think it’s concerning to investors. And certainly they’ll be seeking insights both from mining company executives, mining ministers that are here and active throughout the Indaba, and other industry experts on their views on what might come next.”

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