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S. Africa Workers Return To Anglo American Mine

JON GAMBRELL

JOHANNESBURG (AP) â¿¿ Miners at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. operations in South Africa returned to work Thursday, ending a more than eight-week strike that crippled the world's largest platinum producer.

The arrival of workers at Anglo American Platinum's operations in Rustenburg, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, marked a waning of the crisis that has struck South Africa's mining industry in recent months.

But at the same time farm workers angered over their minimum daily wages launched a second day of violent protests in the nation's Western Cape, setting fires and marching through the countryside.

Miners began attending safety seminars in the morning, Anglo American Platinum spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said Thursday. The safety training should take about a week to complete, meaning there won't be any platinum production during that time, she said.

"The company is pleased to welcome its employees back to work," Sithole said in a statement.

The strike at Anglo American Platinum, known locally as Amplats, began amid unrest across South Africa's mining industry, a major economic engine of the nation. The company fired 12,000 workers and then reinstated them, though the miners did not return to work.

Workers had demanded pay increases to give them 16,000 rand (about $1,800) in monthly pay. In the end, the workers settled for less. In the last several days, Amplats offered workers a one-time 4,500 rand ($500) payment, as well as a monthly pretax salary increase of 400 rand ($45). While striking workers said they still wanted higher wages, the fatigue of the long strike likely played a part in ending the standoff.

Late Thursday, the company said the final deal would apply to 48,000 employees.

But the financial damage has already been done to Anglo American, a mining giant.

In a statement Wednesday to investors, the company's platinum arm said its year-end earnings "will decrease by more than 20 percent" compared to last year. It blamed the strikes in part for the losses. Meanwhile, world platinum prices have risen about $200 an ounce to about $1,600 during the unrest.

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