Striking South Africa miners cut wage demands in 6-week strike

Asking for 11,000 rand per month; basic pay now 5,400 rand
||Last Updated: 09/18/2012

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) — Strikers at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa have cut their basic wage demand to below 11,000 rand (C$1,300) a month to try to end a six-week strike that halted platinum output at the world's third-largest producer, a negotiator said on Tuesday.

The demand is still way above the offer on the table from Lonmin .

The company, which is offering increases of between nine and 21 per cent, has said 12,500 rand (C$1,480) would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the viability of the business. Basic pay for most underground workers is currently around 5,400 rand (C$640).

"The demands came down to below 11,000 rand," Bishop Jo Seoka, who has been mediating in the talks between Lonmin and workers, told Reuters. "I'm very confident that something is going to happen today."

The strike turned violent last month, culminating in police shooting 34 miners at a rocky outcrop at Marikana, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. In all, 45 people have died in the Marikana unrest, which has spread beyond Lonmin to other platinum firms and other parts of the mining sector.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's top producer of the precious metal, said workers started trickling back to its Rustenburg mines on Tuesday after operations were suspended last week when machete-wielding strikers marched on shafts.

More details on shift worker attendance will be provided later on Tuesday.

South Africa is home to 80 per cent of known reserves of platinum and is a major gold producer. Labour unrest this year has cost the industry 4.5 billion rand ($548 million) in lost output, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

Fearing the strike's growing impact on the economy and South Africa's investment reputation, the government launched a crackdown at the weekend that has included deploying members of the armed forces.

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