Another massive firing of mine workers is set to take place in South Africa after workers at the AngloGold Ashanti facility in Carletonville refused to return to work by the noon Wednesday deadline imposed by management.
Company officials say they are trying to bring an end to the impasse, but are likely to follow the suit of other South Africa mining companies and fire as many as 12,000 striking AngloGold workers.
The firings have become a brutal way for the mining companies to deal with the conflict. On Tuesday, about 8,500 striking workers were fired at the nearby Goldfields KDC East mine, while Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s top producer of platinum, fired 12,000 workers earlier this month. In addition, bullion producer Harmony Gold has promised to fire strikers if they do not return by today.
The conflicts at the mines erupted in August after police opened fire on a group of striking workers at the Lonmin mines in Marikana , killing 34 in a massacre that shocked the world. The unrest has rocked the nation’s economy and resulted in the serious decline of the rand, the South African currency. South Africa is the world’s biggest platinum producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer.
Alan Fine, a spokesman for AngloGold Ashanti, told Al Jazeera that the dismissals were “a drawn-out process.”
“In the meanwhile, we have been and continue to engage with strike leaders and attempt to reach an agreement for a return to work at the earliest opportunity,” he said. “We think that the improvements we’ve offered … that seems to us to be a reasonable basis for a return to work and a return to normality.”
But the workers are seeking pay raises substantial enough to justify the hardships they have faced during the strikes.
“Management is not prepared to meet us halfway,” miner Rogers Mohlabane told Al Jazeera. “They are coming with peanuts and workers aren’t happy.”
Roger Letswalo, a miner at Ashanti, said: “We demanded R18,500 ($2,100) from the management and then for how much we will settle, that is going to be the outcome of the negotiations now.”
Miners typically earn the equivalent of $500 a month.
“We are mine workers and we are working in a dangerous job, and we earn nothing at the end of the month,” gold miner Maseti Masixole told Al Jazeera. “That is why we are on strike.”
The strike has affected a total of eight gold, platinum and chrome mines and has cost the industry 4.5 billion rand ($548 million) in lost output, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.
After Amplats fired 12,000, South Africa’s trade federation is vowing to stage massive street protests in support of the fired miners.