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MENAFN - AFP - 25/10/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) Striking South African gold miners have signed a pay deal to end months of often violent labour unrest, the country's main mining union and mine owners said on Thursday.

"Members have accepted a new pay structure," the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said.

"The worst in the gold sector is over," spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told AFP.

The Chamber of Mines confirmed its offer of cumulative wage increases of 11 percent to 20.8 percent had been accepted.

On top of a July agreement to up wages, mine owners had offered a deal that will see "pay rates go up from 1.5 percent to 10.8 percent, while entry level wages rise to 5,000 rand up from 4,840 rand," the NUM said in a statement.

The violent strikes halted production at numerous mines across the gold mining belt, triggered by the Lonmin platinum mine wage increases of up to 22 percent.

The Lonmin strike left over 50 people dead, in the worst spasm of violence to hit South Africa since apartheid ended 18 years ago.

Gold mine owners welcomed the deal.

"We're very pleased that they signed and bring all of the uncertainty and turmoil in the market to an end," said Marian van der Walt a spokeswoman for Harmony Gold told AFP.

While the platinum and coal sectors is not covered by the deal, and there may still be pockets of resistance in the gold sector, mine owners are starting to count the cost of what may prove to be the worst labour unrest in South Africa since the 1980s.

Illegal strikes have cost the industry at least 10 billion rand (1.2 billion, 900 million euro) already this year, the Chamber of Mines top economist told AFP on Thursday.

"This number can be doubled if the lost procurement, wages, capital expenditure, taxes and other contributions that are not happening due to the strikes are included in the calculation," Roger Baxter said.

Several gold mining firms had resorted to mass dismissals of striking workers in an attempt to force them to return to work.

"Negotiations took almost three weeks and were robust and vigorous at times," NUM secretary general Frans Baleni said.

"However, the new deal represents a major step forward for the industry as it removes an anomaly and establishes a firm basis from which to negotiate the 2013 agreement with the Chamber," he said.


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