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Miners return but recovery will be slow

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 02:23

Thousands of South African mine workers have returned to work after wage deals were signed with platinum producers. But is the end of the five-month strike, the longest and most damaging in the country's history, cause for celebration? Hayley Platt reports.

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Back to work but not yet back to normal. The Lonmin miners at Marikana will be given medicals first. The mine too will take several weeks - even months - to get back up and running. But most workers were just pleased to be clocking on after five months of strike action. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED MINER SAYING: "Now is the time. We have to push harder, harder and harder, up until we get there." The strike has cost the three producers involved $2.25 billion in lost revenue. Lonmin - the smallest of them - says restructuring is inevitable Its CEO is Ben Magara. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONMIN CEO, BEN MAGARA, SAYING: "The road ahead for us remains a big challenge, we are yet to access the environment underground, we are yet to access the wellness and the well-being of our employees as we start up our operations. It is not necessarily a time of celebration, clearly there are no winners in this strike" Demand from the motor industry for catalytic converters - which require platinum - is also subdued. Mamokgethi Molopyane is a mining and labour researcher. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LABOUR AND MINING RESEARCHER, MAMOKGETHI MOLOPYANE, SAYING: "Platinum sector was gonna have to restructure itself, position itself in such a way that they return to profitability, so of course after this current strike they would be looking to again restructure themselves and one way of doing so is to retrench" So who are the winners? The miners agreed on a deal which will give them roughly 20% more each year for the next three years - not the 100% rise they originally wanted. AMCU union leader Joseph Mathunjwa says that's still their ultimate aim. ( SOUNDBITE) (English) ASSOCIATION OF MINEWORKERS AND CONSTRUCTION UNION (AMCU) LEADER, JOSEPH MATHUNJWA, SAYING: "It was daunting and energy draping exercise of the union and its members who remain steadfast and united behind their call for a R12,500 living wage" They also insist Lonmin promised no retrenchments - that means job losses - during the course of the three year deal. That's not the way Lonmin seem to see it, so while the miners are back at work, future disagreements are still possible. And platinum mining isn't the only industry in South Africa going through a revolution. There's unrest among metal workers and gold miners. South Africa's once booming economy has many challenges ahead.

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Miners return but recovery will be slow

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 02:23