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Striking South African miners reject wage offer

South Africa's platinum mine workers rejected a fresh wage offer at a public meeting on Thursday and vowed to continue a week-long strike that has brought the sector to a stand-still.

MARIKANA: South Africa's platinum mine workers rejected a fresh wage offer at a public meeting on Thursday and vowed to continue a week-long strike that has brought the sector to a stand-still.

Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin-- the world's top three producers -- have proposed wage increases of at least seven per cent for each of the next three years.

But members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) gave the offer short shrift.

Informed of the terms by leaders, the stadium erupted with jeers and with a cry of "asiyi" meaning we are not going back.

An estimated 80,000 workers downed tool last Thursday, prompting the government to call talks between the union and the top three mining firms.

"We've been mandated to go back to the drawing board," said AMCU's Lonmin branch secretary Reuben Lesejane. "The strike will end after our demands are met, for now the strike continues."

The union has called for a basic monthly minimum wage of 12,500 rand (US$1,150), around double the current amount.

It is the same demand that spurred 2012 strikes, which resulted in the police shooting dead 34 miners on one day.

The mood inside the stadium was one of defiance.

"The employers still do not want to give what we want," said Lonmin employee Zenzo Mathale.

"The companies don't get it," he said. "They only want profits. Things can't go on like this... but we are prepared to fight."

Amos Letsi said the strike was hurting workers, who were not getting paid, but he vowed to press on.

"Our demand is very clear, we want a living wage, nothing else," said Amos Letsi. "People died for this, no one listens."

Mine bosses who have shut down operations have appealed with the union to consider the offer, saying its demand was "simply not feasible in the foreseeable future."

South Africa produces 80 per cent of the world's platinum -- used in products from catalytic converters to computer hard disks to dental fillings and around 134,000 people are employed in the sector.

The firms have warned that previous strikes have resulted in rising operating costs and a sharp drop in platinum prices have led to the loss of about 11,000 jobs since December 2011.

For miner Moses Mdingi, this work stoppage is merely the continuation of a battle which began in 2012.

"The fact remains that we're still going to fight to the end," said Mdingi adding that the strike could go on for a month or more.

"We are used to these things."

Outside the stadium workers had gathered as armed guards manned gates to the mines with armed police keeping a close watch.

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