Protesting South African miners
Lonmin and unions representing mineworkers at the strike-hit Marikana platinum mine in South Africa have signed an accord for a return to work, but a militant breakaway union was not part of the deal, union officials said on Thursday.
The fact that the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had not signed Wednesday night's accord left questions about how many striking miners at Marikana would in fact heed the agreement and go back to work.
On Wednesday, more than 3,000 striking miners marched through streets near the mine, the largest protest at the hot spot since police shot dead 34 of their colleagues last month.
"There is a peace accord that was signed last night that calls on workers to return peacefully to work and that negotiations will then open with the parties so that the issue of wages can be discussed," Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), one of unions which signed the deal, told Reuters.
"Workers may return to work either tomorrow or Monday," he added.
A workers' delegation also involved in the talks was reporting back to the striking Marikana employees, Sdumo Dlamini, president of the COSATU union federation of which NUM is a member, told local radio.
"We didn't sign (the accord)," AMCU's National Treasurer Jimmy Gamma told Reuters.
The strike for the pay rise by rock drill operators and other miners is now in its fourth week and is threatening to cripple London-headquartered Lonmin. Only 4.2 percent of its shift workers reported for duty on Wednesday.
Marikana accounts for the vast majority of the platinum output of Lonmin, which itself accounts for 12 percent of global supply of the precious metal used in jewellery and vehicle catalytic converters.
The strike has raised worries that the labor unrest which has hit the platinum belt this year could spread to the gold sector. South Africa is home to 80 percent of known platinum reserves and is the world's fourth-largest gold producer.