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Tenth body found amid S Africa mine protests
Violent demonstrations continue over poor working conditions, as death toll reaches 10 in mining town near Johannesburg.
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2012 21:25

Thousands of miners in South Africa, under the watchful eye of a scores of police units, have protested over poor work conditions and wages in the latest in a series of strikes to hit the mining industry.

Protests continued on Tuesday at the Lonmin platinum mine near Marikana, a town about 70km northwest of Johannesburg, with at least 10 people having been killed since demonstrations began on Friday.

Seven workers and two police officers were killed in the ensuing violence. Another body was discovered on Tuesday,

The unrest began last week when about 3,000 workers launched what managers called an illegal strike that became entangled with a feud between rival unions.

Frans Baleni, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, blamed the violence on the newer Association of Mineworkers and Construction union.

Baleni described the unrest as "a simple criminal action'' and said that its union rival preyed on "highly embedded'' workers at the mine.

"These people are taking advantage of the common social challenges of people in this area,'' the union leader said.

"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" more money.

Attempts to reach members of the rival union were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Journalists targeted

Some miners threatened journalists and beat on their cars with sticks, machetes and pipes at the Lonmin platinum mine on Tuesday. No journalists were harmed.

 

Dennis Adrio, a captain with the South African Police Services said police units would remain at the mine for as long as necessary.

Adrio declined to discuss specifics regarding police plans, though it appeared late on Tuesday afternoon that officers would largely stay away from the communities and watch from a distance.

Adrio said officers were aware of a dead body near where the miners had gathered Tuesday, which took the death toll to 10, and that they would attempt to recover it.

"Our objective is to civilise the situation on the ground," he said. "The second objective is to find who killed our two officers and those who killed the other dead."

Poor working conditions

Mining gave birth to modern South Africa, as companies rushed to areas around Johannesburg and elsewhere looking for gold and other precious metals. 

The country remains one of the world's dominant producers of platinum, gold and coal, but many of its workers still face abysmal salaries and living conditions.

Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum producer, says 96 per cent of all of its production comes from its Marikana operation

A report released on Tuesday by the Bench Marks Foundation, a non-governmental organisation monitoring the practices of multinational mining corporations, found Lonmin workers often live in deteriorating shacks without electricity.

Some children suffer from chronic illnesses due to sewage spills caused by broken drainage, the report said.

Lonmin's shares fell by 4.94 per cent on the London stock exchange on Tuesday.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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