* Strike leader says miners resume work
* Amplats says to meet strike leaders
By Olivia Kumwenda
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 15 The last of a wave of
illegal strikes that have swept South Africa's mining sector
ended on Thursday after workers accepted an offer from Anglo
American Platinum Ltd, the world's top producer of the
South Africa's platinum and gold sectors have been rocked
for months by often violent wildcat action, spawned by income
disparities and a union turf war for members, and more conflict
could be sparked by looming job cuts and wage talks next year.
The labour unrest has rattled investors in the continent's
largest economy and has claimed the lives of over 50 people,
including 34 shot dead by police in one incident in mid-August
near a mine operated by platinum producer Lonmin Plc.
"All the workers are returning to work," said Evans Ramokga,
a strike leader at Amplats, a unit of troubled global mining
group Anglo American Plc, which has struggled for two
months to get more than 30,000 employees back to work at several
of its South African mines.
The company has offered either an additional monthly
allowance of 600 rand ($67.42) or a monthly salary increase of
400 rand, as well as a one-off 4,500 rand.
Amplats has said the strikes would cut annual profit by more
than a fifth and tensions in the sector remain, with 37 workers
scheduled to appear in court on Thursday after being arrested
for violence during protests near a chrome mine run by Xstrata
South Africa's boardrooms and politicians may breathe a sigh
of relief as the worst labour unrest since the end of apartheid
in 1994 winds down, but uncertainties still cloud the picture.
The dominant National Union of Mineworkers, which has
delivered above-inflation wage hikes but contained militancy,
has lost control over much of its rank and file, a source of
concern to the ruling African National Congress and corporate
Anglo American, which this week raised cost estimates for
its Minas-Rio project in Brazil and warned of lower profit from
its South African iron ore unit Kumba, is scrutinising
Amplats in a review widely expected to lead to shaft closures
and job cuts that could further stoke social tensions.
Much of the platinum sector is battling with low demand,
though the price for the metal used for emissions-capping
catalytic converters in cars has risen 13 percent this year
mostly because of supply concerns stemming from the strikes in
South Africa, home to 80 percent of known reserves.
Refiner Johnson Matthey Plc said on Tuesday global
platinum supply will hit an 11-year low in 2012, largely because
of the strikes' impact on production, and said demand would
outstrip available stocks.
A Reuters journalist said workers at Amplats' Thembelani
shaft had reported for work on Thursday morning.
"We are reporting to work as a sign of goodwill while the
striking committee meet management (to finalise the deal)," said
Thebe Maswabi, a miner at the shaft.
Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said management and labour
leaders were scheduled to meet on Thursday morning.
Among other pledges, Amplats has said it would start wage
talks ahead of the expiry of current deals next year.
Bringing the wage talks forward is seen as a way to head off
possible strike action, but is a risky course as the
negotiations could also provoke another round of wildcat action
by militant labour leaders.
Around 80,000 South African miners or 15 percent of the
workforce had been off the job at one point, but all of the
major strikes are now over.
AngloGold Ashanti Ltd, the world's third-largest
bullion producer, said on Wednesday its Mponeng mine had resumed
work, ending an eight-day stoppage. All of the company's South
African operations are now back up and running.