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By Zandi Shabalala

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa s AMCU union and major platinum producers met on Monday for more talks aimed at ending a crippling five-month miners strike, in a crucial day for negotiations with the government set to pull out of mediation if a deal is not agreed.

About 70,000 workers downed tools in January, demanding higher pay. The strike has halted mines that normally account for 40 percent of global platinum output and has hit wider economic output in Africa s most advanced economy, pushing it into contraction in the first quarter of this year.

The spokesman for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), Jimmy Gama, told Reuters that union leaders were in talks with mining company bosses on Monday but gave no indication as to how they were progressing.

Mining ministry spokesman Mahlodi Muofhe said earlier on Monday that he believed AMCU and the world s top three platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, would agree a deal on Monday.

We believe that the parties themselves are at a point where they feel that they have to get to some kind of resolution, Muofhe told the SAfm state broadcaster.

Mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said on Saturday that the government would pull out of its mediating role if the two sides could not reach a deal at the meeting on Monday, saying the government could take them to the river but not make them drink . [ID:nL6N0OO08A]

AMCU workers at mines run by Anglo American, Impala and Lonmin went on strike to demand that their basic wages be more than doubled to 12,500 rand (,200) a month.

The sides have previously held several rounds of talks, with the companies offering pay increases of up to 10 percent, which would raise the overall minimum pay package to 12,500 rand by July 2017, although this includes cash allowances for necessities such as housing.

The union has so far rejected the offers from the companies and those proposed by a government mediating team.

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