Occupy Platinum: Rich Man’s Gold UN-dervalued as Media Ignores Human Suffering
Platinum prices continue to be threatened by clashes between unions in South Africa. The region of South Africa accounts for three-quarters of the world supply of platinum.
This year fighting has wore on between 30-year old National Union of Mineworkers and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. It has led to four deaths and a strike that ceased production at the world’s biggest platinum mine, Impala Platinum, for six weeks. According to Bloomberg:
Now AMCU says it may call a fresh strike at the mine to gain the right to deal with the company and it’s recruiting at the mines of Anglo American (JSE:AGL) Platinum Ltd., the world’s largest platinum producer, having secured a foothold at Lonmin plc (JSE:LON)’s Karee operation. For the unions about 100 million rand ($12 million) in annual fees are at stake. For the companies mines producing about 5.5 million ounces of platinum a year, worth $8.1 billion at current prices, are threatened.
“The impact on the mining industry could be severe,” Anne Fruhauf, an analyst at New York-based risk research company Eurasia Group.“Employers believe that union rivalry could benefit their negotiating position in the long run, but such long-term gains may come at a high price in the short term, by causing major mine disruption and production losses.”
Platinum has had a rough year. But, to its credit, so have many commodities:
“We’re worried about the state the industry finds itself in,” Justin Froneman, an analyst at Johannesburg’s SBG securities, said in an interview. “The industry just isn’t making a return. Local-currency prices for platinum group metals are almost unchanged over the last two years while mining inflation has increased about 15 percent a year for the last three.”
Of course, it is extremely small-minded, ignorant and prick-ish to worry about the state of the industry itself, when clearly workers are being mistreated. The mainstream press has done a fabulous job of reporting on the suffering in each of the aforementioned ways. The elitism focused on the industry, and not the human facet, is a glaring example of the weight of the machine. Obviously these African workers are not getting paid their due, in the face of a continent with hundreds of years of dominated history on its back.
As Reuters reported:
Production at Impala, the world’s second largest platinum mining company has been brought to a standstill.
The officially “recognised” National Union of Mineworkers has been waging battle with a rival union that claims to support the interests of workers who face the greatest risks.
Already, two employees have been killed in the ensuing violence. And, last Friday, a contract worker was reportedly beaten to death as he tried to attend work.
Impala claims it has been re-hiring miners who were previously dismissed, blaming “unprecedented levels of intimidation” for the fact that hundreds of them have failed to do so.
Worrying about platinum prices is not the thing to do in the face of injustice. While precious metals serve as a way for us to secure our wealth, we must remember that we cannot simply do that and resign to the chaos outside, because the precious metals cannot save us in many, if not most, circumstances.
We must stand up in the face of injustice, even when its others who are being abused. It is already a lesson of history that, if you keep quiet in the now, your tomorrow’s are certain to become much darker.