JOHANNESBURG (AP) - More than 250,000 South African gold miners went on strike Thursday seeking higher wages and a cut of profits from soaring gold prices, a union representative said.
 
The union said the striking gold miners would join more than 150,000 other miners from the coal and diamond sectors, who began striking within the last week.
 
Thandisizwe Jiya, a 36 year-old miner at a Goldfields mine, told The Associated Press he earns less than $600 a month.
 
"The salary I've got, it's little money. You can't survive with that wage... We have needs," he said.
 
The union describes miners' work as arduous and dangerous. Baleni said miners "can lose limbs and lungs, sacrificed to the dust."
 
South African economist Tony Twine said the strike could cost the companies up to $25 million a day in lost production, and will impact the share price of the companies involved.
 
But he said the strike is likely to have virtually no effect in terms of overall production levels this year, as the mining companies could make up the lost production outside of the strike period.
 
The strike will have a negligible effect on the price of gold, Twine added, as it is not a consumable resource, so the temporary loss in production would have little impact.
 
He said gold makes up 8 percent of the country's current exports, a substantial drop from the 60 percent gold accounted for in 1980. South Africa still remains one of the world's top gold producers.
 
Mining companies said they are prepared for the strike. Graham Briggs, chief executive officer of Harmony Gold, said "operations will be closed, assets will be secured and measures will be taken to ensure that expenditure is kept to a minimum."
 
Harmony Gold said Thursday that it expects very limited gold production during the strike.
 
Union members say the strike will go on until a settlement is reached.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
The National Union of Mineworkers said they expect the industrial action to halt operations at four companies including Anglogold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Goldfields.
    
The miners want a 14 percent raise, Union General Secretary Frans Baleni said, because they want to see their share of the profits from high gold prices.
    
"Many of the commodities are doing very well, especially gold and platinum, and that is not reflected in the compensation and remuneration of these workers," he said. "And one of the biggest challenges our members have indicated to us is the inequalities we have between the top and the bottom."
    
The union said the striking gold miners would join more than 150,000 other miners from the coal and diamond sectors, who began striking within the last week.
    
Thandisizwe Jiya, a 36 year-old miner at a Goldfields mine, told The Associated Press he earns less than $600 a month.
    
"The salary I've got, it's little money. You can't survive with that wage... We have needs," he said.
    
The union describes miners' work as arduous and dangerous. Baleni said miners "can lose limbs and lungs, sacrificed to the dust."
    
South African economist Tony Twine said the strike could cost the companies up to $25 million a day in lost production, and will impact the share price of the companies involved.
    
But he said the strike is likely to have virtually no effect in terms of overall production levels this year, as the mining companies could make up the lost production outside of the strike period.
    
The strike will have a negligible effect on the price of gold, Twine added, as it is not a consumable resource, so the temporary loss in production would have little impact.
    
He said gold makes up 8 percent of the country's current exports, a substantial drop from the 60 percent gold accounted for in 1980. South Africa still remains one of the world's top gold producers.
    
Mining companies said they are prepared for the strike. Graham Briggs, chief executive officer of Harmony Gold, said "operations will be closed, assets will be secured and measures will be taken to ensure that expenditure is kept to a minimum."
    
Harmony Gold said Thursday that it expects very limited gold production during the strike.
    
Union members say the strike will go on until a settlement is reached.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)