Lonmin miners in South Africa sign pay deal

Striking miners dance and cheer after they were informed of a wage increase offer by Lonmin on 18 September 2012
Image caption The miners, pictured celebrating the pay offer, have been on strike for weeks

Striking miners at a Lonmin-owned platinum mine in South Africa have agreed to return to work on Thursday after accepting the latest pay offer.

Miners from the Marikana mine, who have been on strike for nearly six weeks, cheered when mediators told them the pay rise of up to 22%.

The deal was officially signed by both sides late on Tuesday night.

Last month, police opened fire on demonstrators at the mine in Marikana, killing 34 striking workers.

In total 44 people died at the mine in mid-August and unrest has spread to other mines.

On Monday, President Jacob Zuma said that the disruption had cost the industry $548m (£337m) in lost output.

He has ordered a judicial inquiry into what has become known as the "Marikana massacre" - the most deadly police action since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in Johannesburg says there is a risk that the deal could trigger new turmoil in other mines - given the Lonmin action was an illegal strike that involved serious intimidation.

But there is also hope that, at least in the short term, the crisis that has spread through parts of South Africa's mining sector may be coming to an end, he says.

'Mission accomplished'

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration told the BBC a delegation of workers' representatives had gone to inform the striking miners of the latest offer on Tuesday afternoon.

The workers, most of who are rock drill operators, gathered to hear the address at a football pitch near the Marikana mine in Rustenburg, which is the centre of platinum mining in South Africa - about 80km (50 miles) north-east of Johannesburg.

They have been demanding a monthly salary of 12,500 rand ($1,513; £935) - they currently earn between 4,000 and 5,000 rand.

"What has happened here has been a victory really for the workers, and they're going to work on Thursday morning," AFP news agency quotes mediator Johannes Seoka, the Bishop of Pretoria, as saying.

One worker held up a hand with the phrase "mission accomplished" written in black ink, AP news agency reported.

Bishop Seoka, from the South African Council of Churches, told the BBC there would also be a one-off payment of 2,000 rand to help cover the weeks of not being paid while they were on strike.

"Tonight's agreement and the subsequent return to work is only one step in a long and difficult process which lies ahead for everyone who has been affected by the events at Marikana, but it is essential in helping secure the futures of our tens of thousands of employees and all those who rely on Lonmin in the region," Simon Scott, Lonmin's acting chief executive said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has said it has re-opened its mines and expects them to be fully working by Wednesday.

The world's largest platinum producer suspended its operations last week after thousands of people protested outside one of its Rustenburg mines.

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