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Pressure Building On South Africa Platinum Mining Companies

|Includes:Sylvania Platinum Limited (SAPLF)

Business Report:

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the biggest union in South Africa's platinum mines, will probably not go on strike over wages at the world's top three producers in 2013, Eurasia Group said.

"We believe these strikes are unlikely before year's end: the wage disputes at each company are at different legal stages, and AMCU leaders are concerned about worker discipline ahead of December holidays," Mark Rosenberg, an Africa analyst for the New York-based consultants, said in a note to clients.

Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum, or Amplats, are in wage negotiations with the union.

AMCU members voted to strike at Impala last week, action that "could happen jointly" with other platinum companies, union Treasurer Jimmy Gama said on October 30.

The AMCU is seeking basic monthly wages for underground workers of 12,500 rand ($1,235) from the three largest South African producers.

The union got permission to strike at Impala after talks failed at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

Amplats is scheduled to start talks at the CCMA with the union on November 13, Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for the company, said today.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey didn't immediately respond to questions on the status of talks.

The National Union of Mineworkers started a strike November 3 over wages at Northam Platinum's Zondereinde division and plans to hold a mass meeting with members on November 7 to discuss the latest offer from the company, the union said in an e-mailed statement today.

There is a 25 percent chance that simultaneous strikes led by the AMCU could occur this year "if companies take harder lines than AMCU expects or if the rival National Union of Mineworker's strike at Northam is especially successful," Rosenberg wrote in the note, sent yesterday.

This will be instructive to watch as neither side can really bend. The majority of mines are currently losing money at every shaft. They need layoffs and capacity reductions. The unions and the government are pushing for higher wages. In some cases over 50% a year increases. These are diametrically opposed positions. At some point this is going to come to a head either via strikes or shaft closures. Either that or the miners go out of business. Regardless I think this bodes well for a higher platinum and palladium price down the road, especially considering there is already a slight deficit in pgm metals. Sylvania Platinum continues to look good in this scenario.

Disclosure: I am long OTC:SAPLF.

Stocks: SAPLF