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Striking miners call wage offer from S. Africa's Lonmin ‘an insult’

Mine workers take part in a march at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa's North West Province September 10, 2012.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

Striking miners in South Africa Friday rejected a wage offer from the Lonmin platinum producer, the first proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock that has shaken the country's mining sector.

Molisi Phele, a workers representative said the offer was seen as "an insult".

"The workers rejected the offer... Lonmin did not respond to the workers' demand," Mr. Phele told AFP after the representatives at the wage talks had addressed the miners.

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The striking miners are demanding 12,500 rand ($1,487 U.S.), claiming they currently earn 4,000 rand a month.

Lonmin has offered an entry level hike of 986 rand, they said.

"What they (the workers) say is that their offer is an insult, what you put on the table is an insult," said Mr. Phele.

The offer from the London-listed Lonmin comes exactly five weeks into the wildcat strike, which has cost 45 lives, including 34 people killed by police.

For most of the strike, the protesting workers have gathered at a hill near where their colleagues were gunned down last month, or marched from shaft to shaft to force a handful of non-striking workers to down tools.

The non-unionised workers will report back to Lonmin at talks due at 12:00 pm (1000 GMT).

"We are going back to tell them (that) the workers say thank you for giving us nothing," said Phele.

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He described the workers' response to the offer as calm.

"The workers are cool and collected... they just said 'no, go and tell those guys to put 12.5 on the table. If they are unable to do that, thank you let Lonmin take their bags and go back to London.'"

The strike at Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum producer, started on August 10. It employs 28,000 at the plant northwest of Johannesburg.

Since then thousands of workers at another platinum giant and a gold mine, have downed tools.

On Wednesday Anglo American Platinum, the number one platinum producer, became the latest mining giant to be hit by the strikes. It shut down five mines over safety fears after intimidation threats on miners going to work in the Rustenburg platinum belt, where it employs 24,000 people.

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