The world’s second-largest platinum mine fired 20,000 black workers today after a five-day strike, and vowed to fire another 10,000 laborers--the remainder of the work force--if they do not return to their jobs Tuesday.
The discharged workers were paid off at three mines in the nominally black homeland of Bophuthatswana, northwest of Johannesburg.
Their 5-day-old strike over wages and for recognition of the National Union of Mineworkers was termed illegal by the management.
It was the biggest mass-firing in South Africa’s history, exceeding the dismissal in May last year of 17,000 gold miners who staged a wildcat strike on the Anglo American and Anglo Vaal mines.
Gold Miners Reinstated
The gold miners were reinstated after their union took the case to court, but Gary Maude, Impala’s chief executive officer, said it was unlikely any of the dismissed platinum miners would be re-employed. He said they would be replaced by new workers.
The dismissals brought platinum production to a trickle, said a spokesman for the General Mining Union Corp. Ltd., owner of Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd.
Platinum is a high-priced metal used in jewelry and watches, but also vital to modern weapons, jet airplanes and costly metal tools.
South Africa mining analysts estimate that Impala produces about 40% of the nation’s output, which includes platinum mined from areas set aside by South Africa as black homelands but not recognized by the rest of the world as being independent. The racially troubled but mineral-rich country is the world’s largest single platinum producer, filling 60% of global requirements.
The other major supplier internationally is the Soviet Union.