Police fire on South African miners

Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 01:00

South Africa's SAPA news agency reported 18 bodies after police opened fire on thousands of striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine today.

SAPA said one of its reporters had counted 18 bodies lying near the Wonderkop squatter camp at the mine. Police have not confirmed any death toll.

Earlier, police officers said talks with leaders of the radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had broken down, leaving no option but to disperse them by force.

"Today is unfortunately D-day," spokesman Dennis Adriao said.

There has been nearly a week of fighting between rival worker factions at the mine, the latest platinum plant to be hit by fallout from an eight-month union turf war in the world's main producer of the precious metal.

Yesterday, up to 3,000 police officers, including members of an elite, camouflage-wearing riot control unit backed by helicopters and horses, confronted the striking rock-drill operators, but there were no clashes.

Before the police advance, Joseph Mathunjwa, president of AMCU, which has been on a big recruitment push in South Africa's platinum mines, said there would be bloodshed if police moved in.

"We're going nowhere," he shouted through a loudhailer, to cheers from the crowd. "If need be, we're prepared to die here."

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