Maputo — The 26,000 striking workers at the Impala platinum mine in Rustenburg, in South Africa's north-west province, began to return to work on Tuesday, and there were no reports of any incidents.
Despite the fears of some of the workers, including the 1,860 Mozambicans contracted by the mining company, Impala Platinum, the atmosphere of intimidation and violence at the mine has disappeared.
A press release from the Mozambican Labour Ministry says that the Mozambican miners are all in good health and are ready to resume work. They took the advice of the Labour Ministry delegation in South Africa and stayed at Rustenburg, rather than returning to Mozambique while the strike continued.
The mine is by no means fully operational yet. Only 1,300 of the 5,000 rock drill operators (RDOs) returned to work on Tuesday. The strike broke out among this key group of workers on 19 January, and a minimum of 2,000 are needed to resume production.
Thus on Tuesday the company simply registered the returning workers, and carried out the health inspections demanded by South African legislation.
The management told the Labour Ministry delegation that the remaining miners are expected to return to their posts later this week. Production will resume sometime between Thursday and Monday.
The RDOs called the wildcat strike, which did not enjoy the backing of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in pursuit of a demand for a monthly net wage of 9,000 rands (1,167 US dollars), rather than the 5,000 rands agreed at the collective bargaining round of June 2011.
When the company tried to sack all the striking RDOs, the rest of the underground work force downed tools in solidarity.
The strike has been costly for the company. Lost production during the almost four weeks of the strike is put at 3,000 ounces of platinum a day, at a current price for platinum of 1,663 rands an ounce.