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Amcu gains a foothold at Kumba Iron Ore

Andre Janse van Vuuren

Amcu, the dominant union in the platinum sector, looks likely to win recognition at Kumba Iron Ore, which announced an increased profit on Tuesday.

Kumba Iron Ore (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction (Amcu), whose strike has paralysed the world's largest platinum mines is set to win recognition at Kumba Iron Ore, operator of Africa's biggest production site for the steelmaking raw material.

Amcu has applied for official status at Kumba's Sishen mine, Norman Mbazima, chief executive of the Anglo American unit said on Tuesday. More than 70 000 Amcu members have been on strike over pay demands at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin since January 23.

"We've looked at the members that they have and we think that they will qualify for recognition, but will not qualify in the short-term for bargaining rights," Mbazima said on a conference call. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is the largest at Kumba, representing about 48% of employees, while Amcu speaks for around 5.2%, Mbazima said.

The union's voice at Kumba operations is growing as the Pretoria-based ore producer prepares for a new wage deal with labour groups that must be completed this year, to replace the 2012 agreement with the NUM and Solidarity organisations. Platinum producers are losing about $18-million a day in sales because of the strike led by Amcu, which unseated the NUM as the largest at the companies in the past 18 months.

Kumba received a boost on Tuesday when it gained the rights to mine a strip of land 14km long and 30m wide, previously used by state-owned rail operator Transnet. Kumba will start work on the new land, which covers about 33% of the Sishen ore reserves, in the second half of 2014, it said in a statement.

Profit Gains
Kumba also said on Tuesday that 2013 profit increased 24% as iron-ore prices climbed and the South African rand fell. Profit excluding one-time items advanced to R15.4-billion, or R48.08 a share. The median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for profit of R47.96 a share.

Iron-ore production fell 2% to R42.4-million metric tonnes as constraints hindered output at Sishen, where volumes dropped 8%. This was partially offset by a 27% increase in output at the Kolomela mine to 10.8-million tonnes.

Kumba receives payment in dollars for its iron-ore exports from South Africa, where it has all its producing assets. The rand depreciated 19% against the dollar in 2013, making it the worst performer among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Benchmark ore with 62% iron content delivered to the Chinese port of Tianjin traded at an average of about $135 a dry tonne in 2013, 5.5% more than in 2012, according to The Steel Index. Prices may weaken later this year, Kumba said.

"The supply-demand balance will shift in the second half of 2014 due to more supply from Australia and Brazil, and slowing demand growth," it said. "This is expected to put some pressure on the iron-ore price in the second half of 2014."

Kumba declared a final dividend of R19.94 a share, raising its total payout for the year by 26% to R40.04 a share. – Bloomberg

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