Lonmin expects mass return at strike-hit South Africa platinum mines

Sat May 10, 2014 4:00pm EDT
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - World no. 3 platinum producer Lonmin (LMI.L: Quote) said it anticipated a "mass return to work" on Wednesday at its strike-hit South African operations, according to an internal company memo to employees.

"Managers and supervisors are returning from leave and ramp plans are in place for a safe return," said the memo, dated Friday and seen by Reuters.

"Lonmin is gearing up for a serious back to work offensive on Monday 12 May in anticipation of a mass return to work on 14 May," the memo said.

Lonmin and larger rivals Anglo American Platinum (AMSJ.J: Quote) and Impala Platinum (IMPJ.J: Quote) have been taking wage offers directly to employees in a bid to end a 15-week strike after talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) collapsed.

The strike is the longest and costliest ever on South Africa's mines, highlighting discontent among black miners who feel they are still not reaping the benefits of the country's mineral wealth two decades after apartheid ended.

It has hit 40 percent of global platinum supplies and dented already sluggish growth in Africa's most advanced economy.

Lonmin had already said it was hoping to restart on May 14 if enough of its workers had indicated their willingness to accept the offer by Thursday and non-AMCU union sources told Reuters on Friday managers had been visiting shafts.

The memo said striking employees could still "indicate their intention to accept the offer."

A showdown is looming on South Africa's restive platinum belt as AMCU's leaders maintain that most of their roughly 70,000 striking members are not happy with the latest offer. Its officials were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.   Continued...

Striking platinum miners attend a rally near Lonmin's Marikana mine April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings