South African trade unions had declared a dispute, the first legal step towards a strike, after the nation's three biggest gold producers had failed to submit a wage offer yesterday, the Solidarity union said.
"Basically it's because they didn't want to put an offer on the table," Solidarity spokesman Reint Dykema commented.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), South Africa's biggest mining union, joined Solidarity in declaring a dispute, he said.
Solidarity said it would report back to its members and then decide how to proceed.
"If members are not willing to accept a zero percent wage offer, we shall approach the CCMA for a strike certificate," said Solidarity deputy-general secretary Dirk Hermann.
No one from the Chamber of Mines was immediately available to comment.
The Chamber of Mines negotiates on behalf of AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold Mining Company.
But unions said employers had declined to make an initial offer on Wednesday because of a mountain of demands by workers.
Solidarity has demanded a 20percent wage rise, and the NUM is asking for a 15 percent increase.
The three unions had put on the table a total of 61 demands, which included the wage increases, the Chamber said last week - Reuters