* Unions seeking increases far above inflation
* In event of coal mine strike, Eskom has 41-day stock
(Recasts throughout with Amplats, background, details)
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, July 7 South African unions on
Thursday threatened strike action in the coal mining sector and
against the world's top platinum producer, moves that may
threaten the country's exports to resource-hungry Asia.
Africa's largest economy is also almost exclusively
coal-powered, and energy supplies are tight, but utility Eskom
has said it has enough coal in stock to last 41 days,
so a strike would have to be lengthy to affect its operations.
A spokeswoman for the company said it had contingency plans
but did not elaborate.
The unions will meet again with the coal mines, but the
powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was no
longer talking with Anglo American Platinum , the
world's biggest producer of the crucial metal.
"The NUM took a decision not to continue with talks with the
company ... and to proceed with consultation with members to ask
for a mandate to strike action," the union said in a statement.
Amplats declined to comment.
A strike at Amplats could threaten its 2011 production
target of 2.6 million ounces and push up platinum prices.
Spot platinum was bid at $1,734.30 an ounce at 1450
GMT versus $1,721.60 at the previous close, extending earlier
gains. Amplats' shares edged down 0.08 percent to 625.49 rand.
Labour relations are badly strained in the mining sector in
South Africa, which has by far the world's largest platinum
reserves and is also an important gold producer. That is one
reason mining shares here have in general underperformed their
NUM is pushing for an across-the-board wage increase from
Amplats of 20 percent for the first year of what should be a
two-year contract, while it said the company offered had offered
In the coal-mining sector, South Africa's Chamber of Mines
said that three unions, including NUM which is the largest, have
threatened to strike over wages.
The Chamber of Mines is negotiating on behalf of several
coal miners including Anglo Thermal Coal SA , Exxaro
, Optimum Coal and Xstrata Coal .
NUM is seeking a 14 percent raise from coal miners, about
triple the inflation rate, while the chamber said it had raised
its offer to 6 percent to the lowest paid workers and 5 percent
for the rest.
The mining body and unions said they planned further talks
on July 20 with a mediator.
Strikes also loom in the gold mining sector, which could
bring South African production grinding to a halt in the world's
third, fourth and fifth-largest producers: Anglo Gold Ashanti
, Gold Fields and Harmony .
The wage demands are far in excess of inflation, which was
4.6 percent in May, but unions say the data do not capture the
full impact of food and fuel price rises on the incomes of
poorer workers, who often have several dependents.
The companies say that even with high commodity prices, they
cannot afford such hikes as they grapple with other cost
Economists have warned that rising labour costs are eroding
South Africa's status as an investment destination especially
since its workforce is already more expensive and less
productive than those found in many of its emerging market
(Additional reporting by Yumna Mohamed, editing by Jane