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Sep 8, 2009
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Strike costs South Africa's Implats 50,000 platinum oz

By
Reuters
Published
Sep 8, 2009

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Impala Platinum, supplier of a quarter of the world's platinum, said on Tuesday 8 September it lost 50,000 ounces during a pay strike at its mines, but was confident it could supply its clients with the precious metal.


Photo: www.implats.co.za

Workers ended a two-week strike at Rustenburg, the biggest mine owned by the world's No. 2 platinum producer, and resumed work during the night shift on Monday 7 September.

South Africa produces four-fifths of the world's platinum -- mostly used in making catalytic converters to cut pollutants from car exhausts, and in jewellery -- but the strike has so far not affected platinum prices, due mainly to a slump in the car manufacturing sector.

Concern of a potential sector-wide strike in South Africa's platinum industry receded after union negotiators agreed in principle to a wage offer from Anglo American Plc's unit Anglo Platinum, the world's top producer of the metal, and would recommend the offer to members.

Impala Platinum (Implats) said workers' attendance at its Rustenburg mine on Tuesday 8 September was normal, and production was set to resume soon after the mining areas had been made safe to operate in, following days of work stoppage.

"Workers agreed to the wage offer, and have voted with their feet by going back to work," Johan Theron, Implats group executive for human resources told Reuters. "We lost 50,000 platinum ounces during the strike at Rustenburg and Marula."

Rustenburg -- which produces one million ounces of platinum a year -- lost 48,000 ounces during the strike, while the smaller Marula mine, which was hit by the strike for only a few days lost 2,000 ounces. Marula produces 75,000 ounces a year.

Theron said the working areas in the Rustenburg mine needed to be made safe, before actual mining could restart.

The group's metal refinery was not affected by the strike.

STOCKS AFFECTED

Theron said although the company's stocks of the white metal had been severely impacted, it hoped to meet its clients needs.

"Our stocks have been severely impacted by the strike, but we are confident we can manage to meet supply," he said.

"It's probably a good thing the market has not needed as much platinum, that worked in our favour," he said.

"We don't supply much to the spot market. The large quantity of our supply is tied to fixed long term contracts, which have not been affected, because we have met demand using current stock and made plans to delay the delivery of platinum to them."

Theron said by staging a prolonged strike, the workers -- who are represented by the National union of Mineworkers, the country's biggest union -- had lost most of the 10 percent pay increase they received, because the strike was held under the "no work, no pay" rule.

The workers had been holding out for a 14 percent raise.

Implats, facing lower earnings and rising costs, said it could not afford the worker's pay demand, which is twice South Africa's inflation of 6.7 percent.

By James Macharia

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