Grievances, fears of instability spread to other South African mines

Story highlights

  • Mine workers gather at Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine
  • At nearby Anglo American Platinum mine, workers give management a list of demands
  • Both mines are in the same province near Rustenburg

More South African mine workers gathered Wednesday, signaling growing instability and labor woes in the nation's platinum industry days after police killed dozens of protesters.

Mine workers rallied at Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine, which is owned by local tribe Royal Bafokeng.

"The situation is stable, is being monitored and management is preparing for engagement," said Mzila Nthenjane, a company executive.

He declined to provide additional details, saying the company will release more information after officials tend to the situation.

At nearby Anglo American Platinum mine, a group of workers gave management until Friday to respond to a list of demands.

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"We encourage our workers to utilize existing channels in place to address any upcoming issues," said Mpumi Sithole, a company spokeswoman.

She did not specify what the demands were, but she said workers have not made any threats to go on strike.

    Both companies operate mines near the Lonmin facility, where clashes between police and mine workers left 34 people dead August 16. Lonmin is the world's third-largest platinum producer.

    In the Lonmin protests, thousands of rock drillers, who earn up to $500 a month, demanded an increase to $1,500 a month. Lonmin rejected the demand and called the strike illegal.

    Negotiations between strikers and the company broke down after a week of rising tensions, leading to a standoff as police fenced in machete-armed protesters with barbed wire, according to authorities.

    Protesters moved toward police, forcing authorities to drive them back with tear gas and rubber bullets, officials said.

    Officers used live ammunition when protesters defied their orders to stop attacking, said police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

    At least 34 people died in a hail of gunfire; 78 others were wounded. In the days preceding the shootings, 10 people were hacked to death, including two police officers.

    Authorities did everything in their power to avoid the fatal clash with miners, the South African minister of police said.

    "The events ... were not (a) sudden eruption but a culmination of events that were building over months and months," Nathi Mthethwa said.

    Rivalry between two unions that wield significant power and influence also intensified the Lonmin protests. The unions, accused of trying to outdo each other in negotiating wages, denied instigating the clashes.

    The mine has reopened, and some workers have resumed working, according to Lonmin.

    A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at the spot where miners and police clashed.

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