Marikana, South Africa — 20 September 2012 – Thousands of miners at Lonmin’s Marikana operations in South Africa returned work today, ending a six-week strike in which 46 people died, as nearby mines faced strikes by workers demanding similar raises.
Reuters reports that striking workers from Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’) Rustenburg mine barricaded a street with burning tyres as a police helicopter hovered overhead and armed officers backed by armoured vehicles and water cannons were on stand-by close by.
Amplats, the world’s biggest platinum producer, is threatening legal action if the wildcat strikers do not return to work today.
“We’ll buy 20 litres of petrol and if police get violent, we’ll make petrol bombs and throw them at them,” said Lawrence Mudise, an Amplats rock driller, holding up a sign demanding R16,700 in monthly pay.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a crowd of men carrying spears and machetes in a squatter camp near the site a day earlier.
Amplats said disruptions at its mine posed a threat to the site’s future. “The operations are already under considerable economic pressure,” it said in a statement. “Any further delays in returning to work will only increase the risk to the long-term viability of these mines.”
Yet like Rustenburg, other mines faced strikes as wage demands spread. Some 15,000 miners at the KDC West operation of Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest bullion producer, are holding an illegal strike.
Economists say the precedent set by Lonmin could spread through an economy already saddled with globally uncompetitive labour costs, stoking inflation and curbing the central bank’s ability to cut interest rates to boost sputtering growth.
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.