A platinum mine and a chrome mine in South Africa resumed operations on Monday, Reuters reported, after unrest and striking miners demanding pay increases had forced several mines to shut down.
The reopened mines are the Aquarius Platinum Kroondal platinum mine and Xstrata’s chrome mine in Rustenburg. Last week after escalation in the strike, the world’s biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), announced that it would have to shut down operations in a mine in Rustenburg. Reuters reported that the Amplats mine will reopen Tuesday.
On Sunday, AP reported that a peaceful march by miners was halted by police who told miners their march was illegal, a different approach than that used by security forces in previous days when they used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protests. The crackdown on strikers over the past weekend came amid government officials’ statements that they will no longer tolerate what they described as “illegal” gatherings.
On Saturday, the police raided the hostels of the Lonmin platinum mine strikers. Reuters added that the police called upon the military for assistance but their exact role was unknown.
A previous police action against Lonmin strikers on 16 August became known as the “Marikana Massacre” after 34 miners were killed; many believed to have been shot in the back while trying to flee. The total number of miners killed since the strike started is 45.
The South African government released a statement Friday, expressing concern for the “violence and threats of intimidation,” adding that “if the current situation continues unabated it will make it even harder to overcome our challenges of slow economic growth, high unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Following the crackdown, President Jacob Zuma said in a statement Sunday, “law enforcement measures undertaken in Marikana are not in any way aimed at undermining the civil liberties of strikers and residents of the area.”
The president added, “[the] government has not and will never take away the constitutional rights of our people that they worked so hard for during the struggle for liberation… [the] government cannot allow a situation where people march in the streets carrying dangerous weapons. We cannot allow them to intimidate others or incite violence as we also have to protect the rights of those who do not want to be part of the protests or the strikes.”
The price of platinum rose last week in response to the ongoing strike and weeks of tension. According to AP, the miners have shut down seven mines, one gold mine and six platinum mines. The miners are asking for their salaries to be raised to US$1,500 per month. They currently get less than half that.
Lonmin has already made two wage offers and talks over wages reportedly resumed Monday morning.