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80,000 Miners Strike for Living Wage

Global platinum industry feels blow as South African workers put down tools

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

The South African national union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa dances together with striking miners during a rally near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, on January 23, 2014 (Photo: AFP, Alexander Joe)Over 80,000 South African platinum workers put down their tools Thursday in a massive strike that has already disrupted mines responsible for half the world's production of the metal.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) withheld labor from the top three producers of platinum — Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin — in what they say is an indefinite strike until their demands are met.

"This is a revolution of the economy of South Africa, to benefit all who live in it," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters following a mass protest at a football stadium, Reuters reports.

The AMCU, which is the largest representative of platinum mine workers in South Africa, is demanding what it calls a "living wage" of 12,500 rand (1,150 U.S. dollars) a month — double the current monthly minimum wage.

South Africa's platinum mining industry, which accounts for 70 percent of global production, is notorious for its low pay and dangerous working conditions.

This is reportedly the largest strike South Africa has seen since 2012 when 34 striking miners in Marikana were massacred by South African security forces. Despite the killings, these workers stayed on strike, winning key demands and contributing to a surge of labor organizing and protest across the country's industries.

A majority of the platinum workers on strike work deep beneath the earth's surface as operators of rock drills, the BBC reports.

The strike has forced the massive platinum producers to the table for talks that will be mediated by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, according to Bloomberg. Yet workers say that the strike is not over until they declare it so.

"We are paid peanuts. And the cost of living is too high," said one striker at an Amplats mine who did not wish to be named, according to Reuters. "If they don't meet our demands, we will keep striking."

Striking miners wearing caps reading "AMCU", the national South African union, attend a rally near Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana on January 23, 2014 (Photo: AFP, Alexander Joe)

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