(Refiles to fix typographical error in first paragraph))
* 16-week strike has turned violent
* Four miners have been killed recently
* Strike is longest, costliest in sector's history
By Zandi Shabalala
MARIKANA, South Africa, May 15 South African
platinum producer Lonmin said on Thursday it might go to
court in a bid to stop a 16-week strike because of the levels of
violence faced by workers who want to return to work.
The company also said some miners had turned up for work at
its operations, but provided no numbers as efforts continued to
end the longest and costliest stoppage in the sector's history.
Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum
have also been hit by the wage strike by the
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which
has turned violent in recent days as miners tried to go back to
"The levels of violence are worrying, those will lead us to
find all options including going to court to stop the strike,"
Lonmin spokeswoman Lerato Molebatsi told journalists near
Lonmin's Marikana mine.
Four miners were killed at the weekend as some employees
prepared to go back to work at Amplats and Lonmin. Implats' main
operations around the platinum belt town of Rustenburg remain
AMCU's arch rival on the platinum belt, the National Union
of Mineworkers (NUM), said it had told its members to stay clear
of strike-hit platinum mines because of intimidation.
On Wednesday, stick-wielding strikers from AMCU prevented
others from returning to Lonmin's shafts.
The producers have said many of the strikers had indicated a
willingness to accept the latest pay offer through SMS polls.
They took their latest wage offer directly to employees through
mass mobile phone messages - asking for a 'yes' or 'no' reply -
after wage talks with AMCU collapsed three weeks ago.
Molebatsi said the SMS campaign had created a "security
risk" for those receiving them, so the company had brought the
practice to a temporary halt.
South Africa's police minister vowed on Wednesday to crack
down on violence against those who wanted to return to work and
arrest strikers he said were behind a campaign of intimidation.
Regional police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said on Thursday
no arrests had been made yet. "The perpetrators are known and it
is only a matter of time," he said.
AMCU has always denied allegations that it uses violence and
intimidation to keep its rank and file in line and has accused
the state of colluding with companies to target it.
But it has a violent history, emerging as the top union in
the platinum shafts in 2012 when it poached tens of thousands of
NUM members in a brutal turf war that killed dozens of people
and triggered a wave of illegal strikes that year.
The current stoppage has hit about 40 percent of global
production of the precious metal used for emissions-capping
catalytic converters in automobiles, with about 880,000 ounces
lost to date, according to Reuters' calculations.
Even in the unlikely event of the strike ending soon, it
will almost certainly take out over a million ounces or close to
a quarter of South African supply as any ramp up will take
Despite its scale, the strike has had little impact on spot
prices as traders have bet there are adequate
above-ground stocks, but the latest developments pushed it to
two-month highs on Wednesday over $1,470 an ounce and it is
within striking distance of eight-month peaks.
The companies are offering increases of up to 10 percent
that they say would raise the overall minimum pay package to
12,500 rand ($1,200) a month by July 2017, including cash
allowances such as for housing.
They say they can go no higher given rising costs and
depressed prices and Lonmin's chief executive Ben Magara said on
Monday restructuring and job cuts were inevitable as it posted a
steep fall in six-month earnings.
AMCU had initially demanded an immediate increase to 12,500
rand in the basic wage, excluding allowances, but softened that
in March to staggered increases that would amount to 12,500 rand
within three or four years - still a third more than what the
companies are offering in basic salaries.
(Additional reporting and writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed
Cropley and Susan Thomas)