NUMSA’s South African Platinum Strike II: Electricity Bugaboo

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Just as South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has gone back to work in the mines of Lonmin, Impala and Anglo-American platinum, another strike is threatening production.

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The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), a nominal rival of AMCU, said more than 200,000 workers went on strike on Tuesday.

The union is demanding a 12% pay hike for its membership, while employers have stuck to an offer of an 8% rise. Marches in support of the strike were taking place across the country in major cities on Tuesday, including Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

“We have a long list of demands that has been reduced because we have to be objective,” NUMSA secretary general Jim Irvin told the BBC.

“Originally we had a mandate for demanding 15% [pay increase]… but we have reduced that to 12%.”

NUMSA doesn’t have nearly as many members in platinum production as AMCU does, although some of its engineers are Lonmin, Impala and Anglo-American employees. NUMSA’s 340,000 members are more directly involved in managing and maintaining South Africa’s already-fragile electrical power grid. NUMSA is picketing energy utility ESKOM which employs most of its workers.

Eskom supplies most of South Africa’s electricity and there are concerns that a strike could not only endanger the country’s power sector, but cause production delays and closures of South Africa’s platinum and palladium due to power interruptions and possible rolling blackouts.

On Wednesday, July 2, US platinum bar jumped up 1.5 percent, landing at $1,504 per ounce and making it the day’s biggest increase. Japanese platinum bar prices rose 1.2 percent to JPY 4,910 ($48.35) per gram. Chinese platinum bar prices inched up 1.0 percent to CNY 318.00 ($51.29) per gram.

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US palladium bar gained 1.3 percent to finish at $851.00 per ounce. At CNY 190.00 ($30.65), the price of Chinese palladium bar finished the market day up 1.1 percent per gram. After a 0.9 percent increase, Japanese palladium bar finished the day at JPY 2,784 ($27.41) per gram.

The price of Indian gold bullion fell 0.4 percent to INR 27,850 ($464.06) per 10 grams. The price of US gold bullion showed little movement on Wednesday at $1,326 per ounce. At CNY 264.43 ($42.65) per gram, the price of Chinese gold bullion was essentially unchanged. Japanese gold bullion held its value yesterday at JPY 4,325 ($42.59) per gram.

Chinese silver ended the day at CNY 4,305 ($694.36) per kilogram, after the 0.1 percent drop yesterday. The price of Indian silver steadied at INR 44,356 ($739.09) per kilogram following two-days of dropping prices. The price of US silver remained steady at $20.98 per ounce. Japanese silver saw little change in its price yesterday at JPY 683.00 ($6.73) per 10 grams.

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