Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 27 July 2011 – South African gold miners are gearing up to join hundreds of thousands of workers tomorrow in seeking pay rises in widening strikes which could affect the nation’s power supply and threaten gold output at a time when bullion is at record highs, as well as coal production and exports.
Fin24 reports that should the coal strike be prolonged, it could hit the country’s already strained power supply, as well as coal exports. South African national power utility Eskom Holdings, which has a virtual monopoly in South Africa and has tight supplies, has said, however, that the strike posed no immediate danger to its coal-fired plants as it has stocks for 38 days. This claim has been disputed by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which says it has been told that the Eskom stockpiles would last only three weeks.
The gold strike tomorrow could see 100 000 workers down tools and take about 16 000 ounces a day out of global output, which could support a rally driven by European and US debt jitters.
Hundreds of thousands of workers across the country have hit the streets in recent weeks, or are threatening to do so, seeking pay rises of double or triple the 5% inflation rate in mid-year bargaining and denting investor sentiment in Africa’s largest economy.
Strikes also loom in the key platinum sector in the world’s biggest producer of the precious metal.
Coal miners walked off the job late on Sunday and Monday, and Anglo American has halted operations at its South African coal mines which produced 58.5Mt of coal in 2010. Unions said they would meet with the coal producers again tomorrow for further talks.
The industrial actions have hit the wider economy with petrol workers in the third week of a strike and previous disputes in the engineering and steel sectors.
The powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), with one eye on high prices, wants a 14% increase in wages from gold employers “’ including AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold Mining Company, which have offered rises between 7% and 9%. It also wants 14% from the coal producers
NUM’s spokesperson said it had given the gold mines a 48-hour strike notice, and Harmony, the country’s third biggest gold producer, said it would be closing its mines because of the strike.
The gold miners’ share prices have all fallen sharply in Johannesburg, with AngloGold leading the way as it shed over 3%.