RUSTENBERG, South Africa (CBS) -- Labor unrest sweeping across South Africa's mining sector hit top world platinum producer Anglo American Platinum on Wednesday (September 12) with striking miners blockading roads leading to shafts belonging to the mining giant.
The platinum price jumped as much as 1.5 percent to $1,624.74 an ounce, its highest since mid-April amid fears of more disruption to supplies of the precious metal used in jeweler and vehicle catalytic converters.
South Africa is home to 80 percent of known reserves. The platinum price has jumped more than 17 percent since police shot dead 34 protesters at the Marikana mine of world No. 3 platinum producer Lonmin on August 16, the bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The "Marikana massacre" has poisoned industrial relations across the mining sector and become a potent symbol of the ruling African National Congress' (ANC) failure to deliver on promises of a "better life for all" in the post-apartheid era.
"By Monday next week we are expecting to have 'Mine workers day' on which all of these mine workers will protest against these things of low salaries and stuff, all of us we going to close all the operations starting from Rustenburg, we'll go even to the Gold Mines to stop the operations," said striking miner, Evans Ramokga, who said another protest action is planned for Thursday.
The bloodshed and the government's inability to ease unrest undermining already shaky growth in Africa's biggest economy is also fuelling a campaign against President Jacob Zuma, who faces an internal ANC leadership battle in December.
Amplats' four Rustenburg mines represent almost 17 percent of total production by the company, which accounts for 40 percent of world platinum output. They employ more than 19,000 people.
The strikes, which stem from a challenge by the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to the dominance of the ANC-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), are also spreading into the gold sector.
Amplats said miners at its Rustenburg operations were "not on strike", but said it was aware of "widespread cases of intimidation".
Siphumelele is one of four mines near Rustenburg that analysts expect to be targeted as "restructuring candidates" by Amplats parent company Anglo American.
Shares in Amplats, which has largely avoided the labor unrest this year that has hit rivals Impala Platinum and Lonmin, fell 3.75 percent. Anglo American, which owns 80 percent of Amplats, shed 3 percent.