Some striking South African gold mine workers have accepted a new wage offer from producers and started returning to work Friday, a union leader said.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) secretary general Frans Baleni replied "yes" when asked if the workers had accepted a revised deal.

"There are some operations where they have returned to work and at other operations we are still finalising discussions," Baleni told AFP.

He did not elaborate on the deal or the number of strikers that reported for their shifts.

Tens of thousands of gold miners downed tools Tuesday night demanding higher wages, the latest in a series of strikes to hit South Africa.

Gold producers' representatives at the wage talks were not immediately available for comment.

A local NUM leader told AFP Thursday that the revised offer was between 7.5 and eight percent, a slight increase from employers' last offer of 6.5 percent.

The NUM, which represents nearly 70,000 affected workers, has demanded a 60-percent hike in basic wages as it battles to remain the dominant union in the gold sector.

Firms represented by the Chamber of Mines said 16 of 23 mines were severely affected on Thursday.

Gold remains a key industry in Africa's largest economy, accounting for 10 percent of export earnings and three percent of Gross Domestic Product.