Workers from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) begged leader Joseph Mathunjwa on Thursday to end a five-month stalemate and sign the latest offer – an increase of about 20 per cent, or 1,000 rand ($93) a month.
Mathunjwa told Johannesburg radio he hoped to meet with leaders of [DATA LON:Lonmin], [DATA AMS:Anglo American Platinum] and [DATA IMP:Impala Platinum] late on Friday or over the weekend to relay the response of his members to their offer.
(READ MORE: Miners beg union to end South Africa's longest strike)
“At least there is light at the end of the tunnel, which is not the light of a goods train,” he told Talk Radio 702.
The major outstanding sticking point was whether the wage deal should stretch over three or five years, he said.
“We are in quite a sensitive stage of trying to resolve this and reach an agreement. We won't do things haphazardly,” he said.
South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world's known platinum reserves and the strike has halted production at mines that usually account for 40 per cent of global output of the precious metal.
The strike by the 70,000 Amcu members began in January and dragged Africa's most advanced economy into contraction in the first quarter as mining output fell at the steepest rate in half a century, pulling manufacturing down with it.
Fitch ratings agency changed its outlook on South Africa to negative from stable on Friday, partly due to the impact of the strike. Standard and Poor's is also expected to adjust its rating after local markets close.
Even if a deal is agreed, platinum producers face renewed financial challenges after suffering huge revenue losses in the strike and with the prospect of paying increased salaries, while restarting mines which have lain dormant for five months.
According to a website run by the three companies, the strike has so far cost them 22 billion rand ($2.05 billion) in revenue, while workers have lost nearly 10 billion in wages.
(READ MORE: Amcu to take wage offer to employees)
“There is no discounting it has been a very damaging strike,” Implats spokesman Johan Theron told state broadcaster SAfm, noting that job losses might follow after a review of the profitability of mines.
“To get all of these workers back through health and safety protocols underground and to fire up all the machinery is an enormous task,” Theron said.
Shares in Anglo American gained two per cent by 0710 GMT, while Impala Platinum rose nearly one per cent.
Lonmin, which is the most exposed to the strike, edged up 0.4 per cent, after jumping nine per cent in the previous session.