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Police crack down on striking South African miners

From Nkepile Mabuse, CNN
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012
Labor unrest has interrupted platinum production in South Africa.
Labor unrest has interrupted platinum production in South Africa.
  • Police recover spears and machetes in raid on striking miners
  • Labor unrest interrupts platinum production in South Africa
  • Strikes are halting operations at select gold mines, as wage negotiations remain deadlocked

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- Police in South Africa used stun grenades to disperse a gathering of hundreds of people early Saturday in the Marikana area, in the latest crackdown on striking mine workers, according to police.

Hours prior to the dispersal, 500 police officers participated in a pre-dawn raid, recovering spears and machetes, said police spokesman Thulani Ngubane.

The tough measures follow an announcement by South Africa's government Friday that it will no longer tolerate illegal protests by miners.

Special interests hijack miners' strike

"Illegal gatherings, carrying of ... weapons, incitement, as well as threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas will be dealt with accordingly," a statement issued Friday by the Government Communication and Information System read.

In August, 34 people died when police opened fire on protesting platinum miners at the Lonmin mining company's Marikana mine. Some of the protesters were armed with machetes. The shooting sparked national outrage.

At least 10 other people died in incidents in the Marikana area in the days before. Among them were two police officers who were hacked to death.

Labor unrest has spread to the country's platinum mining region of Rustenburg, and the world's top producers have closed mines.

On Friday, Aquarius Platinum suspended operations at its Kroondaal mine. On Wednesday, the world's top platinum producer, Anglo American, suspended all of its operations in Rustenburg due to "intimidation" of its workers.

Lonmin reported that wage negotiations with workers remain at a standstill. A meager 1.8% of its miners appeared for duty in mines Wednesday.

Meanwhile, thousands of striking workers are halting operations at the Gold Fields mining company as well.

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