No deal: South Africa gold union NUM rejects final pay offer
There’s no denying the worth of gold and miners in South Africa are demanding to be paid accordingly. The country’s largest union has rejected the latest -- and final -- pay offer presented by the country’s top gold producers AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.
According to Bloomberg, the pay proposal would have increased wages as much as 11 percent for Harmony Gold’s lowest-paid workers and 15 percent for first year employees at Sibanye Gold and AngloGold Ashanti.
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“We have rejected the offer on the basis that it’s an allowance and not a wage increase,” Tafa Moya, a coordinator for the NUM, told reporters. “We are here to negotiate for wage increases and our members will only accept if it’s an increase.”
The second-biggest union for gold miners in South Africa, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), also rejected the offer.
“If we need to go march at their offices we will,” said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa.
The two unions are demanding wage increases in the neighborhood of 70 percent to more than 100 percent.
Speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Mines, Dr Elize Strydom, said: “We are extremely disappointed that our offers have not been accepted. Nonetheless, all parties have agreed to engage further in a mediated process led by the three senior independent facilitators who have thus far been acting as chairpersons during the course of the wage negotiations process.
• Related content: Gold prices could be affected if South Africa's mining union strikes
“We will be meeting again next week for two days to communicate further,” Strydom added.
Wage negotiations are expected to continue on Wednesday, August 12 and Thursday, August 13.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represents about 52 percent of employees at AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye and Harmony, equating into more than 200,000 members.
Declining commodity prices has forced major mining companies in South Africa into a bind. The industry, which contributes around seven percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product, is struggling to keep its head above water as rising cost and labor unrest continues to cause damage.
Last week, Mines Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said Glencore had not followed legal procedure in its plan to cut 380 jobs and ordered the company to suspend operations at its Optimum coal mine until the issue was resolved.
Glencore, Kumba Iron Ore, Sibanye Gold, Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum have all said they plan to cut staff.
"The figure of the affected employees is 11,000 but that is not a final confirmation (that) all of them will be fired," William Mabapa, deputy general secretary of the NUM.
It’s becoming clear a strike is looming for South Africa’s gold mining industry.
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.