South Africa platinum mine seeks peace deal with unions

Story highlights

  • Lonmin says some unions have signed a "peace accord" aimed at ending strike action
  • However, the AMCU and delegates representing mine workers have not OK'd the deal
  • Violence at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine left 44 people dead last month

A South African platinum mine that was the scene of deadly clashes between police and striking workers last month said Thursday that a "peace accord" had been signed with some parties.

However, key players, including the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and a group of miners representing the workers, have not yet signed, according to the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

The August 16 clashes at the Lonmin PLC platinum mine in Marikana, about two hours northwest of Johannesburg, left 34 people dead and 78 wounded, sparking national outrage.

Lonmin said the signing of the peace accord by some parties "lays a firm foundation for the beginnings of the elimination of violence and intimidation, as well as a return to work."

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and UASA are the unions that have signed the deal.

Lonmin has invited the AMCU and the group of workers' delegates to further discussions on wages alongside the other unions, its statement said, and "remains hopeful that the other parties will sign the peace accord."

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"The company remains committed to reaching a sustainable solution to the problems at Marikana and pledges to do everything that it can to make this happen," said Simon Scott, acting chief executive for Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer.

The discussions on wages must happen "in an environment free of intimidation and violence," he added.

The August 16 clashes erupted after negotiations between striking miners and mining company Lonmin broke down and police decided to fence in the machete-armed miners with barbed wire, police said. Thousands of mineworkers had been striking for days for higher wages.

Ten people had already been killed the preceding week, including two police officers allegedly attacked by striking miners, taking the total loss of life at the mine to 44 people.

Tensions were high in part because of competition between the dominant AMCU and the splinter NUM.

The bulk of Lonmin's 28,000 employees work at the Marikana mine, and around 23% belong to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

Last week, a regional prosecutor charged 270 platinum miners with the murder of their 34 colleagues, who are believed to have been shot by police.

However, a national prosecutor said Sunday that authorities would dismiss the provisional charges and release the miners, pending further investigation.

South Africa drops murder charges against miners

On Monday, 47 of the miners appeared in court and were ordered released.

Lawyers for the miners had called last week's decision to charge them with murder "bizarre in the extreme." The country's justice minister called the charges shocking and confusing.

Clashes also erupted Monday between protesters and security officers outside Gold One's Modder East gold mine in Springs, about 24 miles (39 kilometers) east of Johannesburg, police said. The violence occurred after former employees staged a protest outside the mine's gates, Johannesburg police Capt. Pinky Tsinyane said.

The protesters had been fired for participating in an earlier illegal strike, the company said.

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