* Strikers reject 2,000 rand one-off offer
* Exxaro reiterates call for strikers to return to work
* Exxaro shares close down 2.5 percent
* Palabora mining suspended due to underground sit-in
(Adds court orders, shares)
By Sherilee Lakmidas
JOHANNESBURG, March 19 Striking workers at five
collieries owned by South African mining group Exxaro Resources
Ltd rejected a cash offer to return to work, prolonging
an illegal stoppage that could eventually hit electricity
The labour strife at Exxaro turned violent this week,
raising concerns that last year's violent mining strikes - which
included the police killing of 34 striking platinum miners -
could hit the coal sector after causing major damage to platinum
Exxaro said workers at its Matla, Arnot, Grootegeluk,
Leeuwpan and Inyanda mines had refused a one-off offer of 2,000
"Exxaro reiterates the call for striking employees to return
to work," the company said in a statement. The group obtained a
court order to stop the strike but there was no indication
workers would comply.
The strike had began at two mines on March 5 and spread to
other operations, with workers demanding bonuses that the
company is refusing to pay because targets were not met.
The unrest has rocked Exxaro shares, which extended losses
on Tuesday and hit lows last seen in December. They closed down
2.5 percent at 160.10 rand, compared with a 0.4 percent fall in
the JSE's Top-40 index.
Police on Monday fired rubber bullets at a group of about
2,000 strikers at the Grootegeluk mine in the northern province
of Limpopo. Police spokesman Ronel Otto said protesters had
hijacked two trucks and blocked roads.
Production at all the affected mines has stopped, putting
pressure on state utility Eskom, which said it had
adequate coal supplies for now.
The company is the second-largest supplier of coal to Eskom,
which uses coal to generate 85 percent of the electricity for
Africa's biggest economy.
Eskom is already walking a tightrope to keep power flowing
to factories, mines and smelters that had to shut for days five
years ago when the national grid nearly collapsed, costing
billions of dollars in lost output.
In a separate dispute, nearly 100 workers have been on an
underground strike at Palabora Mining for about a week,
halting mining operations at the country's largest copper mine.
However, refining and smelting operations at Palabora were
continuing, the company said. Palabora also obtained a court
order to stop the illegal strike.
Palabora, South Africa's only producer of refined copper,
produces about 80,000 tonnes of the metal a year.
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda; Writing by Agnieszka
Flak; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and David Holmes)