South Africa's Implats shuts mines ahead of platinum strike

Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:23am EST
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By Ed Stoddard and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's Impala Platinum (IMPJ.J: Quote) shut its Rustenburg operations on Wednesday a day before a planned strike over wages across the country's platinum belt by the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction union (AMCU).

AMCU, the platinum industry's main trade union, plans to strike from Thursday at Implats, Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J: Quote) and Lonmin (LMI.L: Quote), the top three producers of the metal used in emissions-capping catalytic converters in cars.

The union had also planned to strike in the gold sector but a court ruled that the strike be suspended pending a review of its legality.

Around 100,000 workers or a fifth of South Africa's mining labor force could down tools or be prevented from crossing picket lines in a stoppage that would hit over half of global platinum production.

However, Implats said it was closing its Rustenburg operations from its mines, processing units and smelter ahead of Thursday's strike to ensure the safety of its employees.

"We have also deployed additional security measures," spokesman Johan Theron said, adding those reporting for work during the strike would be paid even if the mines were shut.

The company said its Marula mine in the northern Limpopo province and Two Rivers mine in the eastern Mpumalanga province were not affected by the strike and had not been shut.

Amplats and Lonmin said they would stop operations with the morning shift on Thursday.   Continued...