The South African Chamber of Mines, which represents AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony, is currently discussing measures with the unions (NUM, Solidarity and UASA ) to restore some sense of order for the South African gold mining industry.

According to regional press reports, the parties have “agreed in principle” and they intend to sign an agreement on October 25, 2012. Last week, Gold Fields issued an ultimatum to the 23,540 (of 35,700) workers striking illegally to present themselves for work by no later than 1400, on October 18, 2012, or face immediate dismissal.

“Particularly disturbing is that in the past few days we have seen a significant escalation in lawlessness, including damage to public and private property, widespread intimidation, including many cases of personal violence and several of attempted murder,” said Nick Holland, CEO, Gold Fields. “We saw strikers invade and ransack the police station in Westonaria. The driver of a company vehicle was stopped, pulled from his vehicle, seriously assaulted and the vehicle set alight. Security personnel who attended the scene were fired on with live ammunition. Such behavior is totally unacceptable.”

The impact of the unprotected strikes for Gold Fields to date has been a loss of approximately 65,000 oz of gold production and R1.2 billion ($139 million) of revenue.

Holland said that, without re-opening wage negotiations and within the ambit of the existing collective wage agreements, and in addition to the 9% to 10% wage increase already implemented in July 2012, the company, through the Chamber of Mines, made a very reasonable settlement proposal. This included an offer to raise the entry level wage rate in the industry; pay an additional skills allowance to rock drill operators; create a new category for loco, loader, winch and water jet operators and further increase their remuneration; as well as increase the pay for all affected employees by a further 2%.

“We believe the company has been more than reasonable in the face of all of these challenges and has done everything possible to deal with striking employees’ concerns, but they continue to refuse to return to work; maintain an uncompromising and hardline attitude; and foster violence, intimidation and damage to property,” Holland said.

“Gold Fields can no longer tolerate the growing state of lawlessness which, in some instances, is approaching anarchy. We intend to act decisively to bring these unlawful strikes to an end,” Holland said. “While taking these steps to restore law and order and secure the future of our mines, and our employees’ livelihoods, we remain totally committed to acting with restraint and, with the assistance of public safety officials, to maintain the peace and safety of all of our people. It is incumbent on all people in leadership positions to now act boldly to bring to a close this infamous episode in our labor relations history. Failure to do so could have unimaginable consequences, not only for the mining industry, but for the whole of South Africa.”