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‘Peacekeepers’ for South African Mines

South Africa is toying with the idea of deploying what it refers to as “peacekeepers” to restore a sense of security to the countries platinum mines amid a spate of assassinations and clashes between rival unions and security forces. South Africa is home to some 80% of the world’s platinum reserves. This is a cautionary tale for investors and deployment of “peacekeepers” is likely to result in a bloody non-resolution of the underlying problem, which is the ongoing struggle for control of unionized workers. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its labor arm, the National Union of Miners (NUM) are vying for control over workers with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). The deployment of peacekeepers to platinum mines is the ANC’s attempt to take full control through NUM, but the rival AMCU has gained too much momentum and backing recently and will not go out quietly. This could spiral into exaggerated political violence and halt mining operations to the further detriment of South Africa’s economy. The timing is important because platinum producers have only a few months to finish negotiations on new contracts for employees and this will be impossible without a union resolution.

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