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S.Africa gold miners refuse to call off strikes

Striking Gold Fields workers in South Africa on Tuesday rejected a deal to end a 17-day wildcat action that has crippled production, as strikes continued at competitor AngloGold.

The workers spurned a pact reached on Friday between the leading gold miner and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which should have seen miners to return underground on Tuesday morning.

“Nobody came to work,” said Gold Fields vice president Willie Jacobsz.

Gold Fields is the world’s number four producer of the precious metal.

The firm’s KDC West mine, which employs 15,000 people near Johannesburg, has been crippled since September 9, slowing production by 1,400 ounces of gold a day — worth around $2.5 million at current market prices.

“There was an agreement on Friday that they would commit to return to work but as we said over the weekend we could only tell this morning once they arrived, now they did not turn up for work this morning,” said Jacobsz.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) coordinator for Gold Fields Kenneth Buda confirmed the stayaway.

“There are no changes, workers are still on strike,” he said.

Staff rejected the agreement over demands for a base salary of 12,500 rands ($1,520, 1,177 euros) — which has become a rallying call on strike-hit mines — and the equalisation of salaries and benefits, he said.

“They said they can’t go back to work until those two issues are addressed,” said Buda.

The unrest has spiralled out of a deadly six week stand-off at Lonmin’s platinum mine near Rustenburg, which killed 46 people, to platinum and gold producers.

The world’s number three gold firm AngloGold Ashanti on Tuesday said its workers were still on strike at its Kopanang mine around 180 kilometres (around 110 miles) southwest of Johannesburg.

“The situation hasn’t changed,” said company spokesman Alan Fine.

“We haven’t had formal contacts with the strikers at this stage.”

The mine employs around 5,000 workers and produced four percent of AngloGold’s total output for the first half of the year.