S.Africa: South Africa`s protracted platinum strike could be called off this week after trade union leaders responded positively to a wage offer by producers, a source close to the talks said Tuesday.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) submitted a written response to the mining firms` offer late Monday night.
"I think one can be confident that the strike will come to an end by the end of this week," AMCU technical advisor Brian Ashely told AFP.
Workers will be back at their posts "by next Monday at the latest," he said.
The world`s largest platinum producers Impala Platinum (Implats), Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin last week announced they had reached a preliminary deal with the AMCU.
But more discussions on a final agreement to end the strike, which has pushed the South African economy into contraction, will take place this week.
"We are just ironing out details, (but) in the broad framework we are together," said Ashley, director of the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), a think-tank providing technical assistance to AMCU.
A spokeswoman for the three mining firms said further discussions were likely to take place "in the day or two ahead."
The mining companies "expect to meet with them (AMCU) soon to discuss and resolve (a) final deal," said Implats spokesman Johan Theron.
"But clearly (there is) still some work to be done before we can claim a final agreement," he added.
AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa confirmed that the union had submitted its response, but did not provide any details.
Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who intervened in the latest round of talks, was upbeat Tuesday that a deal was on the horizon.
"Parties as we speak have got an in-principle agreement signed. The devil of course will still be in the final details," Ramatlhodi told Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday.
The minister last week warned that if the strike dragged on the mines could close, throwing thousands of people out of work and cutting off a vital export.
The strike began on January 23, when more than 70,000 workers downed tools to demand higher wages and benefits.
The offer by mining companies would by 2017 nearly double the current wage, raising it from 5,500 rand per month to 10,500 rand ($980, 720 euros), but it falls short of the 12,500 rands the miners were seeking.
South Africa holds around 80 percent of the world`s known platinum reserves, but stockpiles have so far kept the markets supplied with the metal key for producing catalytic converters used to reduce auto pollution.