Julius Malema is demanding a base salary of R12,500 per month for South African miners. Give or take that is about $1,500 per month or $18,000 a year.
By comparison, here are some mining salaries for those who answered a recent salary survey. They used computers so they are probably not responding from Africa:
- Carpenter (1 -5 yrs) $85K
- Electrician (1 – 5 yrs) $87K
- Electrician (6 – 10 yrs ) $90K
- Electrician (11 – 15 yrs) 100K
- Mechanic / Heavy Duty Mechanic (1 – 5 years) $87K
- Equipment / Heavy Equipment Operator (< 1 yrs) $80K
- Equipment / Heavy Equipment Operator (1 – 5 yrs) $90K
- Instrumentation Technician (1 – 5 yrs) 95K Miner (1 – 5yrs) $68K
- Miner (6 – 10 yrs) $75K
- Miner (11 – 15 yrs) $70K
Maybe these are Australian mine wages. They are relatively high. Recall that that rich Australian mine lady said Africans will work for three dollars a day and thus mining should thrive there as compared to Australia.
Which makes me wonder how one can pay such high wages somewhere but pay so little in South Africa. Is it that platinum is vastly under-priced and would cost a lot more if the miners were paid wages commensurate with those listed above?
Or is all that extra profit sent to London to pay top brass?
Inherently I do not believe nationalization of the platinum mines would achieve anything. But when you look at these numbers and as these questions, it is tempting to slip into asking if Malema is right.
I cannot believe he is. But I know that if I were earning next to nothing as a black miner in South Africa, I would believe him. I would be prepared to strike. I would be prepared to take up arms to redress such gross income inequalities.
I fear the increased labor unrest on South African mines may spread. Malema is grabbing a perfect storm to make trouble, to topple his enemies, and advance his cause. He has economic inequality at least as severe as France before the revolution at hand to play with.
Let us hope the South African constitution can weather this one. Let us hope the politicians turn prudent. And let us hope the mining industry can increase wages.