Thousands of South African gold miners on strike

Amplats workers protest in South Africa. Photo taken in 2012.

As anticipated last week, about 80,000 South African gold miners went on strike Tuesday night after wage talks broke down, threatening to cause millions of dollars in lost output in the crisis-hit sector and raising fears of renewed violence.

Of the 23 companies targeted by the strife, 17 have already been forced to halt operations or have less than half of their workers on duty, media reported on Wednesday as the walk out entered its second day.

Called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents about 64% of the 140,000 workers in the country’s gold industry, the labour action may go on until Christmas, warned unions.

The strife comes after weeks of failed wage negotiations, in which gold companies and workers played hardball.

The government has called on the workers to ensure all strikes are peaceful, as labour disputes last year claimed up to 50 lives at South Africa’s mines.

The current wave of strikes hitting the country, which include the auto industry and construction sectors, has sent the rand to four-year lows.

The shutdown in gold production will cost the country more than US$34 million a day and could also further damage South Africa’s image as an investment destination, as it may spread to other sectors, such as platinum and coal.

Image from archives.