Amplats workers down tools in protest over mine closures

2013-01-16 11:16

Miners at the Rustenburg operations of South Africa's Anglo American Platinum refused to work overnight shifts in protest at company plans to close mines, a labour leader has said.

"They didn't go underground," Evans Ramogka, an activist at an Amplats mine in Rustenburg, told Reuters.

Workers will be meeting later to plot wider strike action after Amplats, a unit of global mining group Anglo American, unveiled plans yesterday to mothball two South African mines, sell another and cut 14 000 jobs.

A company spokesperson said she could not immediately comment on the claims that workers had downed tools because she was waiting for an operational update from managers at the mines.

Gideon du Plessis, deputy general secretary of the trade union Solidarity, representing skilled workers, said that groups of Amplats Rustenburg workers from other unions had not gone underground but the full extent of the protests were unclear.

The planned mine closures, which the world's No 1 platinum producer says are needed to restore profits, risk provoking a repeat of the violent wildcat strikes in the gold and platinum sectors that resulted in more than 50 deaths last year.

Amplats said on Monday that it is likely to fall to a full-year loss because of those strikes.

South Africa sits on about 80% of the known reserves of platinum, used to build emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles, but weak demand has depressed the price.

The price of platinum rallied to three-month highs yesterday because of supply concerns triggered by the Amplats proposals.

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