* Workers angry as 14,000 jobs on line
* Amplats says initiatives needed to restore profits
* New wave of strikes would be crippling to S.Africa's mines
* Anglo drags FTSE 100 index lower
(Recasts with strike to end)
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 16 Anglo American Platinum
(Amplats) miners will end an illegal walkout from
Wednesday night and want talks to prevent further action against
the world's largest producer of the precious metal, a labour
Workers at three of Amplats' South African mines went on a
wildcat walkout from Tuesday's overnight shift, hours after the
company, a unit of London-listed Anglo American,
announced plans to mothball shafts and cut 14,000 jobs.
"The strike was only for last night," Amplats labour leader
Evans Ramokga told Reuters. He added workers would press
management to find a way to head off job cuts, which were equal
to about 3 percent of South Africa's overall workforce in the
mining sector. Amplats officials were not immediately available
Amplats earlier said an unspecified number of employees at
its Khomanani, Thembelani and Tumela mines, in the heart of
South Africa's platinum belt, had refused to go underground.
Only Khomanani was among the mines slated for indefinite
closure or sale by the company, so the wildcat action indicates
militant labour activists had persuaded miners in other shafts
to join sympathy strikes.
The protests, which were expected after Anglo American
unveiled its restructuring plans, combined with strong
government objections to job cuts show how difficult it will be
for the mining giant to push through changes critical for its
recovery and that of its loss-making unit.
"The restructuring itself was fairly ambitious, it was
probably not as much as some people wanted and more than others
expected," analyst Jeff Largey at Macquarie in London said.
"Now it comes down to execution risk and the way things are
looking right now, it is going to be more challenging than Anglo
The mining communities and shantytowns around the platinum
belt city of Rustenburg, 120 kms (70 miles) northwest of
Johannesburg, have been a flashpoint of labour and social
Amplats' share price closed nearly 6 percent lower while
Anglo American's was down almost 3 percent in late afternoon
trade, one of the biggest fallers on Britain's top share index
South Africa sits on about 80 percent of the known reserves
of platinum, used to build emissions-capping catalytic
converters in automobiles, but weak demand has depressed the
price. It rallied to three-month highs on Tuesday because
of supply concerns triggered by the Amplats proposals.
The planned job cuts and closures risk provoking a repeat of
the violent wildcat strikes in the gold and platinum sectors
last year that left more than 50 people dead and slowed the
growth of Africa's largest economy.
They have also stirred anger from the government and ruling
African National Congress (ANC) as they grapple with a jobless
rate of over 25 percent and growing social discontent ahead of
next year's general elections.
Mines minister Susan Shabangu lashed out at Amplats again on
Wednesday, calling the company and its chief executive Chris
"Amplats decided to undermine all of us. Amplats continues
to be arrogant ... They've been playing games with us," she said
during an interview with SAFM radio.
Anglo, which says its plan is critical to creating a
sustainable platinum business, said in a statement that it took
its regulatory and social responsibilities seriously.
Adding to its woes, Kumba Iron Ore, also part of
the Anglo stable, said on Wednesday that its full-year profit is
likely to have fallen by about a third, hit by lower export
prices and an illegal strike at its main mine.
Fueled by glaring income disparities within the industry and
the wider economy, the labour unrest is also rooted in a bloody
turf war between the militant newcomer Association of
Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the dominant
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
A fresh wave of strike action on South Africa's restive
platinum belt and elsewhere could be crippling to an industry
battling with soaring wage and power costs and aging mines that
are the deepest in the world.
"Everyone expected that when (Amplats) came through there
would be some disruption, some protest. It is, though, somewhat
surprising to see how far the government in particular has swung
in terms of standing with the masses, playing up the popular
rhetoric," Macquarie's Largey said.
Strikes would also further erode investor confidence. The
South African rand weakened against the dollar and investors
pushed bonds lower on Wednesday because of the brewing labour
($1 = 8.8087 South African rand)
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Sherilee Lakmidas
in Johannesburg, with Clara Ferreira-Marques in London; Editing
by Erica Billingham)