Business, Economics and Jobs

Unrest continues at South Africa's troubled Lonmin platinum mine


Striking platinium miners gather on August 20, 2012 at London-listed Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine, where police opened fire on hundreds of workers staging a wildcat strike on August 16. Platinum miner Lonmin said today it will hold a press conference with unions to urge workers to return to the job after an 11-day wildcat strike that has left 44 dead.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Unrest continues at South Africa's troubled Marikana platinum mine, where 44 people were killed during a wildcat strike by workers earlier this month.

Lonmin, the London-based company that owns the mine, has been trying to restart production but to little avail. 

Miners are being intimidated into staying away from work, Lonmin said. Just 13 percent of the mine's 28,000 employees reported for duty today, according to Reuters. Hundreds of workers have gathered outside the mine, where there is a heavy police presence.

Less than two weeks ago police opened fire on striking miners at Marikana, killing 34 of them in an incident that shook South Africa. In the week ahead of the mass shooting, 10 people were killed including two police officers in clashes near the mine.

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According to Fin24, a South African business news website, Lonmin is "racing to resume ore extraction." But the mining giant can resume operation only after sufficient workers are back on the job, and threats are keeping workers away.

"These people live among us, we know them, so why do we allow them to go against us? I say let us deal with them when they come back from work," Sandiso Mpumlwana, a member of a committee organizing the strike, told a crowd of 1,000 people, Fin24 reported.

"Police can't protect them forever, they don't sleep with them in their shacks. If you go to work you must know that there will be consequences," Mpumlwana said.

Another leader of the striking mineworkers said today that a return to work depends on the outcome of "peace talks" this week.

"The Wednesday meeting will determine whether the strike continues or we go back to work," said Zolisa Bodlani, who represented workers in a meeting Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Lonmin is responsible for about 12 percent of global platinum output, and South Africa is the world's biggest platinum producer, accounting for three-quarters of the world's known supplies of the precious metal. 

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey told AFP that South Africa's labor ministry will mediate talks between the mine, unions and workers to set up a "peace accord" aimed at ensuring "a secure environment."

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Meanwhile, South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate has opened a murder and attempted murder docket to probe the shooting deaths of 34 people at the mine on August 16.

Another 32 counts of attempted murder were being investigated, the South African Press Association reported.