* AMCU strike just cost Amplats 1 bln rand
* Platinum belt wage talks tough
JOHANNESBURG, Oct 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) intends to declare a dispute over stalled wage talks with Anglo American Platinum , which would open the way for legal strike action, its president said on Wednesday.
“We will go for a dispute with Amplats. I will be briefed tonight about the latest, so maybe tomorrow,” Joseph Mathunjwa told Reuters.
An 11-day AMCU strike over job cuts at Amplats, a unit of global mining company Anglo American, ended two weeks ago after costing the world’s top producer of the precious metal nearly 1 billion rand ($103 million) in lost revenue.
Amplats’ officials were not immediately available for comment on the state of the wage talks.
Mathunjwa did not reveal his latest demand or the company’s latest offer, but AMCU, known for its uncompromising stance in negotiations, has been pushing for a more than doubling of the minimum pay for entry-level miners to 12,500 rand ($1,300) a month under the battle cry of a “living wage.”
On another front, wage talks between Impala Platinum , the world’s second largest producer, and AMCU went to a government mediator on Wednesday with the sides far apart.
A senior Implats official, who asked not be named, said the company and union “have made significant advances in building trust” but the gap between offers and demands remains wide. Talks are also underway between AMCU and Lonmin.
At current prices and in the face of soaring costs, platinum producers say they cannot afford big pay hikes.
AMCU emerged as the dominant union on South Africa’s platinum belt, home to 80 percent of the white metal used for building emissions-capping converters in automobiles, after poaching tens of thousands of members from the once unrivaled National Union of Mineworkers last year in a bloody turf war.
That conflict killed dozens of people last year and sparked a wave of wildcat strikes that cost producers billions of dollars in lost output.