The South African platinum sector could face trouble this year as rival unions threaten to strike against the world’s biggest producers of the white metal. An upcoming strike will only add to a tumultuous period for producers and workers in the world’s platinum belt.

Northam Platinum Ltd.(SJ:NHM), Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (SJ:IMP), Lonmin PLC (LN:LMMI) and Anglo American Platinum (SJ: AMS) are all facing possible or ongoing strikes from the two major mining workers’ unions.

A simultaneous hit to these companies would make no small impact. They are among the world’s biggest producers of platinum -- responsible for more than half of global output, according to Reuters

On Wednesday, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) announced a mandate to strike against Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (SJ:IMP) after wage talks failed.

“Our members are not stupid. They get affected by inflation like everybody else,” AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told TimesLive 

“They have children to look after and have seen the huge profits that go to London instead of being [invested] here,” he added. "What’s the point of spending 11 hours underground to earn R4,000 to R5,000."

The AMCU called for a minimum monthly wage of $1,147 for its workers. An Impala spokesman said this goal couldn’t be immediately reached but might be a long-term possibility. 

The union is also reportedly looking into similar action at Anglo American Platinum and Lonmin.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a rival organization, are in their 11th week of striking at the Northam mine. Last week, NUM members rejected the company’s offer of a 9.5 percent wage increase plus a one-time payment of $275 for some employees.   

This union represents more than 80 percent of workers at this mine, and they originally asked for a 40 percent pay hike. On Friday, members will hold another meeting to discuss their options.

The price of platinum has dropped 15 percent in the past twelve months. These low prices and high input costs for the sector have rendered many mines unprofitable, according to Business Day