Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara confirmed one employee was
killed in what he called a "a very sad incident", but provided no
other details on a conference call with reporters.
London-listed Lonmin, the smallest of the three platinum firms hit
by the costliest strike in South African mining history, saw its
underlying earnings before interest and tax shrink by almost two
thirds in the six months to the end of March.
It was hoping miners would start returning this week after it made
its wage offer directly to employees, sidestepping the majority
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) in a bid to
end a four-month strike.
"Two mine workers were killed this morning. NUM members who went to
work are being intimidated and assaulted," said Livhuwani Mammburu,
spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) whose members
have been abandoning the strike.
"If Lonmin wants our members to return to work they have to
guarantee their safety. We have no faith in police - they are not
doing anything to protect workers."
The Solidarity union, which mainly represents skilled workers, also
said its members were being intimidated.
Lonmin said police were aware of the violence in Marikana, 120 km
(70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, but a police spokeswoman for
the region said they were yet to get details.
"It is a very sad incident and a very sad time," Magara said during
a call with reporters. "My appeal is: our employees have the right
to choose (whether to go back to work) in our democratic country and
they should be able to exercise that peacefully."
Lonmin said it expected to assess the success of the return to work
by the end of this month, with production provisionally scheduled to
start in June, if successful.
Workers attendance levels had gradually increased to 12 percent on
Friday, up from between 9 percent and 11.5 percent since the strike
began, said Lerato Molebatsi, Lonmin head of public affairs.
"Intimidation is a big issue and highlights that Lonmin is going to
be very reliant not only on its own security but also on the
government to provide additional security to make the workers feel
safe enough to return," London-based Investec analyst Marc Elliott
"Now with the elections out of the way the government can be more
Lonmin said restructuring of its business and job cuts were
inevitable as the strike had exacerbated already difficult market
[to top of second column]
WAGE OFFER VOTE
Lonmin's larger rivals, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum,
have also presented wage offers directly to employees after talks
with the AMCU collapsed.
Implats spokesman Johan Theron said the company was expected to
conclude an SMS vote on its offer on Tuesday. The voting started
AMCU's leaders maintain that most of their roughly 70,000 striking
members are not happy with the latest offer.
The companies are offering increases of up to 10 percent that they
say would raise the overall minimum pay package to 12,500 rand
($1,200) a month by July 2017, including cash allowances such as for
AMCU had initially demanded an immediate increase to 12,500 rand in
the basic wage, excluding allowances, but softened that in March to
staggered increases that would amount to 12,500 rand within three or
four years - still a third more than what the companies are offering
in basic salaries.
The strike is the longest and costliest to hit South Africa's mines,
highlighting the discontent among black miners who feel they are
still not reaping the benefits of the country's mineral wealth two
decades after apartheid ended.
It has hit 40 percent of global platinum output and dented already
sluggish growth in Africa's most advanced economy.
(Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala in Johannesburg and Silvia
Antonioli in London; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by
Ed Cropley and Tom Heneghan)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.