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Miners call off strike

ZIMBABWE’s main mining body said on Wednesday the majority of workers had gone back to work after the government ordered unions to call off a five-day strike that could threaten export earnings.

a, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>”The strike has been off in general from this morning. The ministry (of labour) has issued (an) order to the unions to return to work immediately,” Doug Verden, an executive at the Chamber of Mines, told Reuter.

“We are now in a position from our point of view to start negotiations,” he said, adding that union leaders had also written to the Chamber of Mines to say they were calling off the strike.

The strike, which began on October 7, has disrupted production at Zimbabwe’s platinum mines, operated by Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats), majority owned by South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.

Government and mine workers’ officials could not be reached for immediate comment on Wednesday.

Verden said he could not quantify the impact of the strike but said it had cost the industry “millions of US dollars” in export earnings.

On Tuesday the country’s main mining body said about 25 000 workers, or half of the industry’s labour force, had gone on strike over pay but said it had not yet established the impact on production.

“The strike started on October 7 and has escalated since then. We believe it’s now about 25 000, half the labour force,” Verden told Reuter.

“We are working to resolve the situation. We are still trying to establish how many mines are affected and the impact on production.”

In a statement, Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) said it had suffered a halt in production at its Makwiro Platinum Mines as a result of the job action, which it said had been initiated illegally in the midst of wage negotiations.

“Makwiro Platinum Mines has suffered a loss of one shift at the SMC (Selous Metallurgical Complex) processing plant, but operations at the plant have now resumed,” Zimplats said, adding that work at Makwiro’s Ngezi mine had not yet been affected.

Zimplats owns 70% of Makwiro while South Africa’s Impala Platinum Hodings Ltd, itself a majority holder in Zimplats, enjoys a 30% stake.

In June, Zimplats posted a 16% fall in precious metals sales following a job boycott at Ngezi which churns out about 85 000 ounces of platinum and 90 000 ounces of other precious metals a year.

Other mining firms that have operations or projects in Zimbabwe include the world’s biggest platinum company, Anglo American Platinum, and mining giant Rio Tinto.

The mine strike is yet another blow to an industry rattled earlier this year by a controversial draft law compelling companies to sell up to 49% of their shares to black Zimbabweans, which President Robert Mugabe’s government later withdrew. – Reuter.

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