SUNDAY TIMES - Just how much does a miner make?
Sunday Times STLive By Monica Laganparsad and Loni Prinsloo , 2012-08-26 00:04:56.0

Just how much does a miner make?

A mining shovel loads a mining truck at the Los Bronces copper mine, some 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Santiago city and 3500 meters above sea level, in this March 12, 2008 file picture. Anglo American and copper giant Codelco ended a bruising 10-month long dispute on August 23, 2012, with the global miner agreeing to sell its Chilean rival a stake in its coveted south-central Chile properties at a discount to the market price. Picture taken March 12, 2008. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/Files (CHILE - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)

The wage dispute at Marikana mine has prompted questions about exactly how much mineworkers earn.

The striking Lonmin miners who embarked on a two-week stayaway that turned bloody last week are demanding a monthly salary of R12500. The strike was started by rock-drill operators who said they took home only R4000, with some earning R5000 when their housing allowance was included.

Lonmin and others said the workers in fact earned more.

The company said the average rock-drill operator's cost-to-company package was R9812.98. This included:

  • A basic cash component of R5404;
  • A pension contribution of R801;
  • Medical aid allowance of R556;
  • Housing allowance of R1850;
  • Holiday leave allowance of R450; and
  • A rock-drill operator's allowance of R750.

The operators could also earn a performance bonus, which averaged R1500 and could be as much as R6 000.

The union whose members made up the bulk of those on strike at Marikana, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, has declined to comment on anything to do with the matter ahead of the judicial commission of inquiry into the matter.

Trade union Solidarity's deputy general secretary, Gideon du Plessis, said the salary slips he had studied showed that some workers took home between R6 000 and R9 000 a month.

''There was one who took home R16 800," he said. He said this worker's pay included overtime and a bonus of R7 900 for that month.

Du Plessis said that those who took home R4 000 would have received smaller pay packets for three reasons: absenteeism, the fact that there were garnishee orders issued against them, and because, as migrant workers, ''they received a bigger salary one month and the next month that extra amount was deducted".

Du Plessis' mainly white union is involved in the Marikana matter because, he said, it had members at the mine whose interests it had to protect - and three of them had been injured by colleagues in the strike - and because it could not "stay on the sidelines" during a matter of such international significance.

Vusi Mabena from the Chamber of Mines said the chamber was trying to establish the average wage for rock-drill operators across platinum mines; there was an indication that the average cost-to-company package was R10500.

At Northern Platinum mines in North West, the cost-to-company package for rock-drill operators is R12500.

Implats spokesman Bob Gilmour said salaries for the industry ranged between R10000 and R12000. ''We fall within that range. This excludes our bonus which ranges between nothing and R5000 and depends on team safety and productivity."

A spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, Lesiba Seshoka, said claims that workers earned as little as R4000 were ''untrue".

On Friday, unions met Lonmin management, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant.

Simon Scott, Lonmin's acting CEO, said the company welcomed the Department of Labour's efforts to facilitate a peace accord.

Lonmin has 4259 rock-drill operators, of whom an estimated 3000 are on strike.