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S. Africa: Amplats miners end work stoppage

Hundreds of Anglo American Platinum workers agreed to return to work Wednesday after downing tools for a day pending talks to prevent 14,000 job cuts in a company overhaul in South Africa, miners said.

“The workers’ committee told us we had to return to work, and they’re still going to negotiate some of the sensitive things,” said Johannes Mongane, one of the workers.

Strikers agreed to take up their tools after a representative committee met with mine management.

“Now workers are going underground in the afternoon shift today (Wednesday) and are going underground tomorrow,” said William Tyhali, another worker.

The work stoppage followed the top global platinum producer’s announcement to close four shafts around the city of Rustenburg, 110 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, and sell off another mine.

Operations halted from Tuesday night at three Amplats mines.

“A group of its employees at its Khomanani, Thembelani and Tumela mines have refused to go underground this morning and are engaged in an illegal work stoppage,” Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told AFP.

A small group of workers chanted outside the Khomanani shaft, one of four the top global platinum producer plans to close down, in a reprisal of strikes which rocked South Africa last year.

Their representatives — who also led two months of illegal stoppages last year — met with mine management in the day and would continue talks.

Workers would meet again Sunday evening, according to radio’s Eyewitness News.

Last year’s protests led to the deaths of over 50 people, the majority strikers shot by police in one day of bloodshed at the Marikana platinum mine.

Security was again ramped up on Wednesday.

A police helicopter circled overhead, while a few armoured security vehicle kept watch from a distance.

While some miners were defiant, there was also a sense of resignation.

“All of us here, our work is gone,” said 28-year-old Mpolokeng Mosala, who has worked at the mine for five years.

“I’m going home to live with my mother. I won’t look for work.”

Amplats on Tuesday announced it would close four shafts and sell a mine in sweeping restructuring, saying operations had become unsustainable.

The vast majority of job cuts — 13,000 in all — would be made around Rustenburg.

Last year, when workers downed tools for months demanding higher wages, companies warned the inflated wage bill might make operations unprofitable.