News24

Workers at Malawi's biggest mine strike

2012-05-15 14:35

Blantyre - Malawi's devaluation of its currency by a third against the dollar provoked a strike over wages at the country's largest mine, condemned by the Australian firm's management on Tuesday.

Mining company Paladin's uranium mine was operating at 65% capacity after a "small militant core" of the estimated 1 000 workers downed tools illegally, the company said in a statement.

Branding the strikers' demands "unrealistic and extremely unfortunate" managing director John Borshoff said his company would not "accede to an unprecedented demand to grant an immediate 66% pay increase following the recent... devaluation of the national currency".

Malawi last week floated the kwacha against the dollar to boost the economy, after a fixed-rate had caused a foreign exchange shortage.

Workers at the $185m Kayekelera mine close to Lake Malawi in the north of the country went on strike last Friday.

In a letter seen by AFP the miners claimed their "salaries should be adjusted in line with the devaluation".

The company said it hoped the miners would return to work on Tuesday after labour ministry officials went to the site to hammer out a deal.

The strike was the most disruptive since the mine opened in 2009, when it was the biggest foreign direct investment project in the impoverished southern African country.

It produced £2.3m over the past four quarters starting March 2011.

Mine owner Australia's Paladin Energy also has interests in Canada, Namibia and Niger.