Unrest Could Disturb South Africa's Largest Mining Event

January 30, 2014


A union leading a plutonium mining strike has failed to reach a deal with mining companies regarding working conditions, worker's rights and pay. The union is seeking to double the minimum wage for entry-level miners to roughly $1,200 per month. Three of the largest platinum producers say the strike is costing them a combined $17 million per day. These companies include Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.


Next week in Cape Town is the 12th annual Mining Indaba. The word Indaba is Zulu for "gathering" and this event brings together industry leaders, government officials and investors to work over the details of billion dollar deals. However, this usually joyous occasion is threatened to be overshadowed by the platinum miner's strike which has now reached 70,000 miners stopping work.


While the strike will be an inconvenience, organizers say it won't deter investors from attending.


"Anytime there is unrest, anytime there are disruptions. I think it's concerning to investors," Mining Indaba Vice President and Managing Director Jonathan Moore told Voice of America. "And certainly they'll be seeking insights both from mining company executives, mining ministers that are here and active throughout the Indaba, and other industry experts on the views on what might come next."


How mining companies handle the strike and what concessions, if any, are made to the miners will be heavily scrutinized. Returns on the major investments made will play a pivotal role in future actions. If the strikes are successful and force poor returns, investors will force mining companies to find a solution.


Exploiting miners has a long and sordid history and though it continues today more miners are becoming aware of their rights and the value they bring with their experience and willingness to do a dangerous job. Finding a balance in wages and working conditions will be crucial in finding a mutually beneficial resolution.