The gold miners have rejected the latest offer of a 6 per cent wage increase and on Tuesday night began striking. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called for a salary increase of between 60 and 150 per cent but then reduced their demands to 10 per cent. Industry spokespeople claim that the wage hikes are unaffordable due to low commodity prices and increased costs. They say that the miners’ demands would lead to mine closures.

This isn’t the first time strike action has been called. Last year platinum miners in South Africa went on strike but the proceedings turned violent and dozens of people were shot and killed. To avoid this happening again, president Jacob Zuma has called for both sides to find a solution. The Chamber of Mines has warned that extended industrial of this nature could irrevocably damage the resources industry.

According to industry spokeswoman Charmane Russell as a result of the stoppages and disruptions caused by the strike the gold sector could lose 761kg in production every day – this equates to around AU$34 million.

The NUM is remaining steadfast. “The strike is going on. We have not been invited to new talks to discuss our demands,” said spokesman Lesiba Seshoka. The NUM regional secretary in the mining town of Carletonville – south of Johannesburg – Mbuyiseli Hibana has said: “This is a legal strike so the workers are not afraid of losing their jobs like in the past.”

For many years South Africa was the largest gold producer in the world. But its share of production has diminished from 68 per cent in 1970 to 6 per cent of the global total last year. This new strike looks to add further pressure to an industry beleaguered with frequent stoppages trying to stay afloat in a country hit with sluggish growth and rampant unemployment.

Main image: A giant photograph of a miner adorns the outside of the Anglo American Mine Company building, Johannesburg (via Getty)
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