JOHANNESBURG - Government-brokered talks to end a South African platinum mine strike, now in its second week, will restart Tuesday, as firms report losses totalling as much as $36 million a day.
Around 80,000 members of the radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) downed tools on January 23 calling for a minium monthly wage of 12,500-rand ($1,100) -- almost double their current pay.
Last Thursday they rejected a three-year deal from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin that offered a roughly seven percent annual increase.
"Discussions will resume today," an industry spokeswoman told AFP.
South Africa produces 80 percent 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.
AMCU has threatened the strike could go on for a month if no agreement is reached.
Companies, which have seen their revenues plummet in recent years, are looking for a long-term agreement in the hope of preventing what have become regular stoppages.
But they insist drastic wage increases are impossible and claim that the current pay package is more than a basic entry-level wage.
"The wage increases demanded by AMCU are unaffordable by industry, will push more of industry into loss-making territory," said South African Chamber of Mines economist Roger Baxter.
The strikes are costing Africa's largest economy $36 million a day in lost production, he told a continental mining conference in Cape Town.
Mining labour costs have more than doubled in South Africa in the past two decades, Baxter added.
Current wage demands date back to violent mass wildcat strikes in 2012, which resulted in the police shooting dead 34 strikers on one day at Lonmin's Marikana mine.
But industrial action has become "more peaceful" since then, Baxter said, a statement echoed by Mining Minister Susan Shabangu.
"We have restored the rule of law, peace and stability in this industry," Shabangu told the conference.
"These developments debunk the myth that labour laws in South Africa lack flexibility and are only created to protect workers," she said.