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The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) in South Africa has declared strike action against Sibanye Gold, following a breakdown in negotiations over workers’ wages and safety investment.

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa announced the industrial action at a rally on Sunday at Masizakhele Stadium in Driefontein, South Africa, and gave Sibanye Gold 48 hours to respond with a new wage offer.

The AMCU posted videos of the event on its Twitter account, which showed crowds assembled to hear officials speak, and a throng of people following Mathunjwa, chanting their support, as he made the announcement.

The union was first given permission to strike by the country’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in September, following talks with a number of gold miners over new wage agreements. Speaking in response to the talks, Mathunjwa claimed that the lack of investment by mining companies is damaging the safety of operations.

“These mines have been killing workers on an almost daily basis because they save on investment in safety,” he said. “They still enjoy hyper profits, and their bosses still get exorbitant bonuses on the back of the sweat of our members.

“If the conciliation process fails, strike [action] will as always be our last resort. However, we are prepared to engage in disciplined and focused industrial action to drive home our point, if there is a lack of understanding.”

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According to the AMCU, gold wages have stagnated in South Africa compared to other mining sectors. The union reports that entry-level gold miners can expect to earn R6,900 ($493) a month, compared to R11,000 ($787) for a new platinum miner, a difference of close to 40%.

While the AMCU failed to reach an agreement with Sibanye-Stillwater and Harmony in September, it was able to sign a deal with AngloGold Ashanti, which offered a pay rise of R1,000 ($71) for mineworkers, and a 6.5% pay increase for mine officials. The contract means that by 2021, no miner at AngloGold Ashanti’s operations will be earning less than R14,000 ($1,001) a month, a significant improvement over other figures for gold miners.

“You are not going to lose anything by going on strike because you have nothing,” Mathunjwa said today in a statement to AMCU members. “South Africa’s natural resources are for us Africans. This exploitation must come to an end.

“The strike will commence on 21 November 2018. We have nothing more to say to Sibanye-Stillwater. If they wish to meet with us with a view of resolving the dispute, we shall make ourselves available during the notice period.”

The strike comes at the end of a difficult year for the South African mining sector, and gold mines in particular. A total of 71 workers have died at operations across the country, and Statistics SA reported in July that gold production has fallen 16.2% compared to 2017, underpinning a 2.6% decline in production across the entire South African mining industry.

Mining Technology’s Mining Safety content is supported by USA mining safety specialists Carroll Technologies Group.