Cool heads needed to restore stability on the mines
The Times Editorial: Embattled platinum miner Lonmin's announcement that it intends negotiating a new deal with its workers is good news for the mining sector and the entire country.
Nearly six months after the tragic events at Lonmin's Marikana mine - culminating in the massacring by the police of 34 protesters after a protracted, violent wage strike - the company has announced a series of "change initiatives" intended to improve relations with its workers.
Savagely criticised for his company's handling of the labour dispute, and for the poor living conditions of its workers at Marikana, Lonmin's London-based chairman, Roger Phillimore, said "dedicated working groups" were investigating measures including employee share ownership, better ways of accrediting competing unions and improving employees' living conditions.
If Lonmin manages to implement such far-reaching measures - and they will work only if the unions and employees buy into them - it will help to secure South Africa's future as well as its own.
The country will benefit from a new deal between Lonmin and its workers if it brings greater stability to the mining sector, which was ravaged by wildcat strikes after Marikana.
Another positive development this week was the decision by Anglo American Platinum to postpone implementation of its plan to retrench 14 000 workers. The postponement is to allow for consultations with the unions and the government.
Amplats had said the proposed retrenchments were necessary to save 45 000 other jobs. Their announcement triggered a furious, over-the-top threat by the minerals minister who vowed to review the entire mining rights portfolio of the company's parent, Anglo American.
The public spat created yet more uncertainty in the struggling mining sector but tempers have cooled and tentative negotiations are taking place. Cool heads are required if our struggling mining sector is to prosper.