Exclusive: Implats CEO says South Africa platinum strike could last much longer

Thu May 22, 2014 11:33am EDT
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By Silvia Antonioli

LONDON (Reuters) - The crippling four-month miners strike in South Africa could last much longer, the chief executive of Impala Platinum said, adding that feedback from initial court-mediated talks with the world's biggest producers and main mining union was lukewarm.

South African platinum miners Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) (AMSJ.J: Quote), Impala Platinum (Implats) IMPJ.J and Lonmin (LMI.L: Quote) have been battered by a strike over wages that began on January 23 and has cost the trio collectively almost $2 billion in lost revenue.

The stoppage has also turned increasingly violent, with the National Union of Mineworkers reporting one of its members was stabbed to death on his way to work at Amplats, the fifth such killing in the past two weeks.

The talks, aimed at ending South Africa's longest-ever mining dispute, started on Wednesday and should last for up to three days.

"So far as hope is concerned, the feedback that I have got was lukewarm from yesterday but they are going back into session today," Implats CEO Terence Goodlace, in an exclusive interview with Reuters, said about the talks.

Asked how long the strike could last, Goodlace said:

"It's almost like how long is a piece of string. I suppose the proper answer to it is that it could go on for much longer because we are so far apart between the two parties... My expectation is they will probably go on for longer."

Platinum prices hit their highest since September last year at $1,493.90 per ounce after Goodlace's comments.   Continued...

Miners on strike chant slogans as they march in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko