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South African gold, platinum miners issue strike notice

South Africa's militant union AMCU gave formal notice that members will strike within 48 hours at the country's vital platinum and gold mines.

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa's militant union AMCU on Monday gave formal notice that members will strike within 48 hours at the country's vital platinum and gold mines, the companies confirmed.

Leading producers Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin and the Chamber of Mines said they face a mass walk-out from first shift on Thursday following a pay dispute.

If no last-minute deal is reached as many as 80,000 workers could walk off the job.

The union is demanding a monthly starting salary of 12,500 rand ($1,150) -- more than double the 5,000 rand entry-level pay the union claims workers currently earn.

Firms say the basic wage is higher, and have offered an eight-percent increase.

Confirming the notification from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Lonmin said that attempts to "reach a sustainable resolution to the wage demands" had failed.

The notices are another blow to the beleaguered sector, and to South Africa's struggling economy.

The industry is still reeling from a series of wage-related stoppages from 2012 that saw AMCU muscle out the government-allied National Union of Mineworkers.

Anglo American Platinum said weeks of strikes in 2013 cost the company about 44,000 platinum ounces, forcing it to cut jobs.

"The industry remains in a fragile position, with many mines and shafts making a loss," said Elize Strydom, the chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines.

The mining sector accounts for a fifth of Africa's largest economy.

"A strike will further undermine the industry and threaten even more job losses and even some mine closures," she said.

In a sign of growing exasperation, one gold firm, AngloGold Ashanti, said it would fight back and seek a court order against the strike.

"Any strike action by AMCU... will be opposed and a court interdict will be sought to prevent AMCU from embarking upon strike action," it said in a statement.

Another wave of strike action brings with it fears of renewed violence.

In August 2012, police opened fire on striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine, killing 34 workers in the country's deadliest post-apartheid police shooting.

The once powerful National Union of Mineworkers has not yet indicated an intention to join the strike.

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