South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers, which represents about two-thirds of the country’s 120,000 unionised mineworkers, has begun an indefinite strike in pursuit of a 60% wage rise for entry-level miners.
The rival Mineworkers and Construction Union is not striking, but is pushing for a 150% increase.
Mineowners warn their industry stands on the brink of collapse.
“Our shareholders, and here I must speak on behalf only of Harmony, Anglo GoldAshanti and Sibanye, have indicated that they will not entertain above CPI increases,” said Harmony mines’ CEO Graham Briggs.
South Africa’s mines once produced 80% of the world’s bullion, but that figure stands at just six percent today. Seams are now deeper underground, making extraction more expensive and dangerous.
Last year wildcat strikes turned deadly when more than 50 people were killed in clashes with police.