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The Globe and Mail

South Africa seeks platinum belt peace and wage talks

Mine workers gather while on strike near the scene of a shooting at Marikana, in the north western province August 27, 2012.


South Africa is seeking a "peace accord" in its embattled platinum belt to have feuding unions lay down their weapons and then start wage talks for ending a deadly strike that has paralyzed miner Lonmin, the labour ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement it expects to reach the peace agreement on Wednesday.

"Upon conclusion of a peace accord, the parties will start engaging on the demands raised by the workers," it said.

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Labour strife returned to South Africa's platinum sector on Monday, derailing London-based Lonmin's efforts to restart mining and fanning fears of a resurgence of the violence that has killed 44 people this month.

The violence stemmed from a bloody turf war, which has been spreading through the sector, between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The labour ministry said representatives from NUM, AMCU, Lonmin management and other unions met on Tuesday in Rustenburg, a city about 120 kms west of Johannesburg and in the heart of the country's platinum operations.

Lonmin is the world's third largest producer of platinum, a white metal used in car catalytic converters and jewellery, and accounts for 12 per cent of global output.

The mining firm said on Tuesday only 8 per cent of workers had reported for duty at its South African operations The company is losing about 2,500 ounces a day and its mining operations have been frozen for over 2 weeks.

The strikers, who are rock driller operators, have been demanding a monthly wage of 12,500 rand (949 pounds) for their tough and dangerous job. The company says they get about 9,800 rand with an average monthly bonus of 1,500 rand.

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