The head of South Africa's largest trade union grouping on Friday urged 24,000 striking AngloGold Ashanti miners to return to work, while nearby Gold Fields threatened to sack the remaining stayaways.
Zwelinzima Vavi, secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), returned to the mines near Johannesburg where he once worked in a bid to end illegal strikes raging across the country.
Hours after his visit, a nearby gold mine Gold Fields threatened to dismiss the remaining 8,500 illegal strikers at its operation, if they do not report for duty early next week.
Already some 13,000 Gold Fields workers that had been on strike for weeks, showed up for work this week in the face of a threat of dismissal.
At AngloGold Ashanti Vavi, in the company of officials from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), toured the mines to sell a new pay offer by the South African Chamber of Mines to workers holding out for 16,000 rand ($1,850, 1,400 euros) a month.
"In front of you workers there are people representing you, they are Cosatu and NUM. So when we die, we die together, when we sleep, we sleep together, when we wake up, we wake up together, so everything we do together," Vavi told crowds of workers.
Some cheered his calls to take up their tools again, but others were not so welcoming.
"We deserve this 16,000 (rand). We work hard for this money. We deserve this money. We won't go to work without this money," a miner at Great Noligwa Mine told AFP.
Employers have offered up to between 7,000 and 10,000 rand.
Workers at the mine stopped Vavi from talking after they rejected the new wage offer. He cancelled a trip to the Itireleng mine when some hurled rocks at his motorcade.
AngloGold strikers walked out on September 25, and on Wednesday stoned a bus carrying colleagues to work.
AngloGold spokesman Alan Fine said 24,000 workers were still refusing to clock in.
Vavi's visit came as a month-long strike ended at the nearby Goldfields and two months into a wave of stoppages at mines across the country as workers demand better wages and living conditions.
Having secured the return of 13,000 of its striking workers, Gold Fields issued an ultimatum to the remaining 8,500 that have downed tools at one of its operations since Sunday.
It said the group of miners had ignored a court order to return underground, and gave them between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon to report for duty or "face immediate dismissal."
The firm announced the dismissal of around 1,500 other workers that refused to show up for work alongside their colleagues.
Those sacked had 24 hours to lodge appeals against their dismissals, and "many of them have appealed -- at least 500 -- many of them are likely to come back," Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche told AFP.
The return of the 13,000 striking miners offered hope that a long-drawn and often violent labour mining industry conflict may be easing off.
Cosatu's involvement, as an alliance member of the ruling African National Congress, follows strikers' rejection of normal negotiation processes and accusations against the labour movement of being too close to government and mine management.