More disruption for crisis-hit mine

Updated: 
Lonmin mineThe South African mine that saw 34 of its workers shot by police has suffered further disruption after only one in five wildcat strikers reported for duty.

Platinum miner Lonmin had ordered 3,000 illegally-striking rock drill operators to return to work at its Marikana mine on Tuesday or risk losing their jobs, while it appealed to a further 25,000 staff and 10,000 contractors to report for duty.


But it backed down on its threat to sack absent workers as it looked to strike a more conciliatory tone in line with the official week of mourning declared by president Jacob Zuma.

The group said a third of its 28,000 workforce turned up, with many being put off by the fear of more violence. Just 19.5% of the 3,000 illegally-striking rock drill operators were on shift, although the firm described the situation as calm.
Production, which restarted on Monday, was still significantly lower than normal as the incident dragged into its second week. But shares rose 2% after falls of 20% since the incident, which saw 34 miners shot by police in one of the worst displays of state violence since apartheid ended in 1994.

The rock drillers went on an illegal strike over pay. They claimed they were paid a minimum wage of 5,500 rand (£420.55p) a month and demanded it be increased to 12,500 rand (£955.80p), although the figures have been disputed by Lonmin.

The group had previously issued an ultimatum to illegal strikers to return to work on Monday or face the sack, but extended the deadline to Tuesday after just 30% of its staff turned up for duty. It has now said there will be no dismissals this week.

Lonmin's shares have suffered in recent days amid broker downgrades following reports it is considering a one billion US dollar (£640 million) emergency fundraising move. Deutsche Bank, for example, recently estimated that Lonmin will lose at least 50,000 ounces of production as a result of the crisis and said it will make a loss this year, having previously expected a small profit.

Lonmin has dismissed reports that it will need to raise funds as "speculation", yet fears remain that it may be forced to make some form of cash-call to shareholders as the closure of its biggest mine in South Africa puts a significant strain on its income.

The disruption at the Marikana mine is understood to be a significant hit to Lonmin as it accounts for around 90% of the group's output. Lonmin is also believed to be asking for leniency from its banks as it struggles with debts.

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