Violence returns to SA mines


Violence has spread to the eastern operations of world Number 3 platinum producer Lonmin, the company said today, raising concerns of deadly unrest flaring again after 44 people were killed this month in labour strife.

"There have been incidents of intimidation towards bus drivers overnight as well as intimidation of Eastern's workers this morning, preventing them from coming to work," the company said in a statement.

Lonmin, where most operations have been suspended for two weeks by a wage strike among about 3,000 of its workers, also said only about 13 per cent of its 28,000-strong workforce has shown up this morning.

This is far short of the numbers needed to start pulling ore from the earth again.

Trade union Solidarity, which represents skilled workers, also reported high levels of intimidation.

In another development, workers at a mine run by junior producer Eastern Platinum in South Africa were blocked today from going to their posts by people believed to be colleagues, the National Union of Mineworkers said.

Lonmin is racing to resume ore extraction across its operations with no guarantee striking workers will return this week after the end of a mourning period for comrades killed in the recent wave of labour unrest.

The violence stems from a bloody turf war between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has been spreading through the sector.

Lonmin has also said it may issue new shares to shore up a balance sheet hit by the lost production and revenue. Its situation will become tougher the longer its mines are idle.