Gold producer Sibanye is considering buying embattled platinum mines which have been crippled by a five-month labour dispute.
“I can confirm that we have publicly expressed our interest in potentially acquiring a platinum asset if it is value accretive and supports our strategy,” said Sibanye Gold spokesperson, James Wellsted, said in a statement on Friday.
He said it was premature to say which assets the company was interested in and what value they would contribute to Sibanye.
“We are aware of the problems the platinum sector is having with its labour force, and obviously what is happening concerns everyone in South Africa. The gold sector also interacts with the same unions, however, and is not immune to labour disruption, so it is not something we have not had to deal with before or can expect to totally avoid in future,” Wellsted said.
Members affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin went on strike on January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.
By Friday, the strike had cost the industry R23.4-billion in lost earnings. Employees had forfeited wages of R10.4-billion, according to a website set up by the companies.
Talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration stalled in March after the parties were too far apart.
Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi set up an inter-governmental task team last month in an attempt to break the deadlock. On June 9 the task team withdrew from the talks. The following day Ramatlhodi denied he had abandoned the talks.
Earlier this month Amcu and Amplats, Implats, and Lonmin reached separate in-principle agreements. Amcu then submitted written responses to the companies with new demands. The companies said the additional demands would involve extra costs of around R1-billion.
On Friday the parties were still in talks to end the strike. – Sapa