The prospect of a South African miners' strike moved a step closer on Thursday after pay talks between mining firms and their employees fell through.
Miners want a double-digit pay rise
More than 160,000 mineworkers are threatening to down tools on 27 July, in a move which could seriously disrupt one of South Africa's biggest and most lucrative industries.
A strike would also have serious consequences for some of the world's top gold and coal mining companies, most of which have major interests in South Africa.
The latest round of talks between the two sides ended on Thursday after an improved offer of an 8.5% pay rise from industry body the Chamber of Mines proved insufficient to break the deadlock.
The miners, represented by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), are holding out for a double-digit increase.
The two sides are also arguing over pension fund contributions, holidays, and job grading.
More talks planned
The Chamber of Mines said on Thursday that talks would continue.
"There will certainly be further talks. There are some signs that we might be able to get closer together," a spokesman said.
The NUM said reacted positively on Thursday to an offer of a pay rise of up to 10% from AngloGold, the world's second biggest gold producer, stirring hopes that the firm could be exempted from strike action.
Similar offers from coal mining specialists Xstrata, Kangra and Afriore could also win them a reprieve.
The dispute began two months ago, with the NUM initially demanding a 20% wage increase, and the Chamber of Mines unwilling to go above 7%.
Some gold mining firms, already hit by an increase in the value of the rand, said giving in to the NUM's demands would boost labour costs by 38%.