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10 People Killed at South African Platinum Mine

10 People Killed at South African Platinum Mine

10 people were killed at a South African platinum mine after inter-union violence locked opposing sides into a volatile and guerilla-like clash early this week. The mine, owned by Lonmin, is part of a larger platinum-producing culture in South Africa. The BBC notes that the country produces three-quarters of the world’s platinum and has also been host to one of the most unionized workforces.

The clash occurred between the longstanding National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the newer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at the northwestern mine. A police spokesperson told BBC News that the initial attackers were gathering together 5,000 person guerilla mobs to make attacks on people. The melee quickly escalated to an uncertain pitch and the police spokesperson said this about the incident, “We came under attack. The suspects took our weapons. A shoot-out ensued and during that incident three suspects were fatally injured.”

Two policemen were also murdered after a group descended upon them with machetes, the BBC news reports. The AFP notes that one mine worker was killed in his hostel room, another while trying to report to work, and two more men were killed after bombs were hurled at them.

On Tuesday, the mine was shut down and police have begun to patrol the area as the mine stocks slipped down almost 5 percentage points in the wake of the violence. A tenth victim of the ensuing violence was also found in the bushes on the same day and leaders of Lonmin fear that work will not begin again for some time to come as terror ripples through workers torn between the rival unions.

The unrest began last Friday when 3,000 workers went on an “illegal strike” and walked out on work, sparking unrest between the two competing union groups. The country’s umbrella labor group has posited that the AMCU is responsible for beginning the oubreak of violence in an attempt to force people to join their ranks. The president of NUM, Frans Belani, told the press that the AMCU was taking advantage of poor workers in an area struggling with unemployment. Businessweek quotes Belani as saying:

These people are taking advantage of the common social challenges of people in this area… There’s a high level of unemployment as we know, secondly workers are highly indebted, so it’s easy to go to workers and say that if you belong to us, we will get you.

Mine workers continued to protest working conditions on Tuesday, demanding better pay. Journalists were unable to reach leaders of the AMCU for comment and it remains unclear who perpetrated most of the violence this week. Police officers are planning to stay in the area for as long as it takes to get the situation under control.

This week’s clash is only the most recent in a long string of violent and volatile meetings between mine owners and rival uions. In February, two workers were killed during a strike at another mine, the AFP reports. Yet, Lonmin leads the way in violent unrest. Two security guards were killed on Sunday, and only recently two more guards were burnt to death. In January, three other people were killed in another round of violence that shut down the Lonmin mine completely.

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Photo Credit: Jerome Bon

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30 comments

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12:08PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

What have we been reduced to?

1:13PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

All they want is what Americans want, fair pay for the work they do. What they get is death. Rich people make me sick to my stomach.

1:28AM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

So glad this has reached the rest of the world. We are living in absolute terror since the take-over in 1994. A human life is worth nothing in South Africa. There is so much greed going on. People are getting killed and robbed like anything. They will even kill you for your cellphone. These miners are greedy. I understand they need to feed their families, but so do the majority of people including whites. We are under tremendous stress as we don't have jobs and everything has gone up in price. We are living below the breadline in this country. It never used to be like that before. Even their own people are not safe anymore. They kill their own kind and woman and children are raped daily. This is just one incident that has gone on the air to reach other countries. You will be shocked if you knew the conditions we live under. We have lost all hope. Maybe we will end up like another Zimbabwe as they are killing the white farmers at a rapid rate. This has actually got nothing to do with the above post, but I think it is time the truth came out and other countries got to know how we are suffering since the take-over.

8:04PM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

As long as workers are enslaved by the company and the local government compicity, these horrible violence wont end. They are taking advantage of a country with high unemploynment rate, taking the South African resources to... oh yes, as usual, to powerful rich overseas companies. How easy it is to discuss whether the police acted rightly or not, when we should be involved in a human rights cause.

8:36PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

How awful. I hope things get settled peacefully.

5:49AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Where do you get the statistic of 50 ?

3:28AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

In all poor countries of the world all the same, if someone don't makes what the big creedy people wants,then the state servant force the workers to violence.
No human of the world wants to be a slave, but many of them do it for hunger and to feed their family.
If everywhere in the world where are grain fields have been built, and instead to feed the livestock with that food, but to feed the poor people all over the world,then no one must have hunger.NO MORE MEAT TO EAT!!! Tell that our governments and the vatican in Rome, then we all people,the animals and our environment have a chance to survive.

2:17AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

heartbreaking story

11:25PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

The deaths are now numbering around 50.

11:07PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

I'm very sorry to hear about this.

Let's be honest, most of us like to turn a convenient blind eye to mining around the world. We know that the work is brutally difficult and that the men involved live lives that amount to slavery. The fact is, you wouldn't do it and neither would I. We want someone else to do it for us in an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of way.

And some of what's mined is necessary for our day to day lives. But the truth is that much of it, gold, diamonds, are largely produced for their monetary value and our vanity. This is why I wear no jewellery.

This is the first post about mining I can remember on Care2. I'm sorry it has to be about these terrible events.

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