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An AngloGold Ashanti security vehicle keeps watch behind striking miners at the AngloGold Ashanti mine in Carletonville, South Africa, Oct. 25, 2012. The company said on Friday that its miners had returned to work, effectively ending the strike in the country’s gold sector.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. said on Friday workers at its West Wits operations in South Africa had returned to work, bringing the curtain down on the worst industrial unrest in the gold sector since apartheid.

After threats of mass firings and a wage deal agreed between the industry and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the only mine not up and running is one of Gold Fields Ltd.' three operations, where sacked workers are appealing their dismissal.

"It appears that the strike is over. Workers have proceeded underground at two of the three mines affected and it appears that the same is happening at the third," AngloGold spokesman Alan Fine said of the West Wits operations.

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Workers at AngloGold's Vaal River complex, which was also hit by an illegal strike, returned to work earlier this week.

After three weeks of talks, NUM and the gold industry, which employs around 157,000 people, announced an agreement on Thursday on wage hikes of between 1.5 and 10.8 per cent for different categories of workers.

Resolution of the gold sector strike is likely to bring relief to the African National Congress and President Jacob Zuma, who is favoured to win re-election as head of the ruling party at an internal election in December.

However, large parts of the platinum sector remain idle, with no end in sight to a six-week strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's top producer of the metal.

Some 20,500 workers at Amplats' Union and Amandelbult operations are still holding out for higher wages, and the company has also sacked 12,000 wildcat strikers at its Rustenburg mines northwest of Johannesburg.

In all, 100,000 workers have downed tools across South Africa since August in often violent strikes that triggered ratings downgrades and a slight reduction in this year's economic growth forecast from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

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