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Platinum producer Amplats fires 12,000 South African workers

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Striking platinum miners gather outside the Amplats mine in Rustenburg, South Africa on October 5, 2012.

The world’s biggest platinum producer, Amplats has fired 12,000 workers after they held a wildcat strike for three weeks at its mine in South Africa’s eastern town of Rustenberg.

“Approximately 12,000 striking employees chose not to make representations, nor attend the hearings, and have therefore been dismissed in their absence,” Amplats said in a statement on Friday.

Amplats’ spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company urges workers to go through legal channels such as their unions or the company to make their demands.

“We would like our workers to know that this is illegal industrial action and we’ve got engagement structures that are operational, that are working, that have been working for years, that should they have any problems that they would like to bring to management’s attention, that they use those channels,” Sithole said.

Meanwhile, National Union of Mineworkers said it disapproves of the move and will try to negotiate with Amplats.

Workers at the Rustenberg mine went on strike for higher pay last month, and are demanding a monthly salary of 16,000 rands (1,800 US dollars).

About 80,000 miners are currently on strike in South Africa’s gold and platinum sectors in a wave of wildcat strikes that have had grave economic and political implications for the African nation.

The work stoppages began two months ago at a platinum mine owned by Lonmin PLC. At least 45 people died in clashes between workers and police there.

A separate strike is continuing at another mining firm, GoldFields, which is the world’s fourth-largest gold miner.

Unemployment in South Africa currently stands at 25% and the mass dismissal of miners will deal a serious blow to the African continent’s largest economy.


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