* Strike is biggest in post-apartheid era
* Producers say communities suffering, crime rising
* No end in sight to strike
(Adds COSATU comment, details)
By Xola Potelwa
JOHANNESBURG, March 25 Platinum producers Anglo
American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin
said on Tuesday a strike now in its ninth week at their
South African mines was causing irreparable damage to the sector
and local economy.
Wage talks have broken down between the companies and the
striking AMCU union, which is demanding a doubling of basic
wages, although the world's top three platinum producers said
they were open to talks "within a reasonable settlement zone".
In a joint statement, the companies said they had lost
nearly 10 billion rand ($921 million) in revenues, but also
pointed to the cost to communities around the mines in the
platinum belt northwest of Johannesburg.
South Africa's biggest post-apartheid mine strike, which has
hit 40 percent of global production of the precious metal, is
also seen denting sluggish economic growth and widening the
current account deficit as its effects ripple from the platinum
communities throughout the wider economy.
"The financial cost ... does not tell the full story," the
companies said. "Mines and shafts are becoming unviable; people
are hungry; children are not going to school; businesses are
closing and crime in the platinum belt is increasing."
South Africa's largest labour grouping COSATU, which
includes AMCU's archrival the National Union of Mineworkers,
said it supported the call for a "living wage" but accused the
striking union of being irresponsible.
"We believe that it is irresponsible to take workers on such
a long strike where there are no prospects of achieving the
demands," COSATU said in a statement.
COSATU also said the government should intervene to resolve
The mining companies have repeatedly stated they cannot
afford the demand for a 12,500 rand ($1,200) monthly "living
wage", saying many steps have already been taken to remedy
historical inequalities in the sector.
South Africa's deputy president will meet with the mining
industry and unions on Thursday for a regularly scheduled forum
aimed at bringing stability to the sector.
It will be the first meeting between the companies and AMCU
since wage talks collapsed almost three weeks ago.
The companies on Tuesday hinted at longer-term restructuring
and mass layoffs in an industry that employs more than 100,000
"Sadly, as the industry progresses towards greater
mechanisation and higher skills levels, which are aligned with
higher earnings and greater productivity, so the number of
people employed in the industry will decrease," they added.
South Africa has faced chronic unemployment for over a
decade, with one in four people out of work.
Miners near Rustenburg, the main town in the platinum belt,
told Reuters last week they were having to sell cattle to make
ends meet, while local business owners spoke of collapsing trade
because many migrant workers had simply gone home.
($1 = 10.8610 South African rand)
(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Dale Hudson)