Gold sector in for rocky ride

South Africa's gold sector faces hard-hitting wage talks in coming months due to high bullion prices, a spate of recent strikes and new union leadership, according to the lead negotiator for the industry.

South Africa's gold sector faces hard-hitting wage talks in coming months due to high bullion prices, a spate of recent strikes and new union leadership, according to the lead negotiator for the industry.

"I'm concerned, I'm worried and I think it will be a tough year," Elize Strydom of industry body for the Chamber of Mines said.

South Africa, the world's biggest gold producer, was hit in 2005 by the first industry-wide strike in 18 years, paralysing production for five days. The two-year wage deal that ended the strike expires on June 30 and unions are busy coming up with demands for a new pact. Formal talks are expected to start in May.

Strydom said that conditions were markedly different than two years ago, including a much higher gold price, interest rate hikes and expanding inflation, which has rocketed to 5,3percent from 3,6percent in 2005.

Also worrying was a wave of strikes popping up in the mining sector recently even before the wage talks begin, she said. Miners at the Modikwa platinum mine stayed away from work for three weeks over alleged racism and continuous operations while shorter illegal strikes erupted at DRDGOLD and Impala Platinum. - Reuters

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