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S Africa police fire rubber bullets at miners

Officers also use stun grenades at platinum mine north of Johannesburg, as 3,000 workers demonstrate for higher wages.

Last updated: 04 Feb 2014 18:55
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South African police have fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesting miners, a police spokesman has said.

About 3,000 workers were demonstrating outside an Anglo American platinum mine near Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported.

"The police say that this is the version that happened. The miners were rowdy, they blocked the entrance of the mine with burning tires, they were even intimidating workers trying to get into the mine," said Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg.

More than 70,000 miners have walked off the job to demand higher wages in a strike that is now entering its third week and costing South Africa around $36m per day.

"Workers are saying they want double what they used to get. They want basically $1,250 a month," Mutasa reported.

Managers of the country's platinum mines claimed those wages are not feasible, Mutasa said, adding that the Anglo American platinum mine has warned its workers that it will have to lay off more than 1,000 employees due to financial losses cause by the ongoing strike.

Talks resumed on Tuesday between South Africa's Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and the world's top three platinum producers.

Back to bargaining

"They [the miners and the companies] will meet for three days," a spokeswoman for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration said.

Last Thursday, the union rejected an offer to increase salaries by up to nine percent, according to Reuters.

The 20th "Investing in African Mining Indaba" conference also opened in Cape Town on Tuesday and Mutasa reported that investors are concerned about the unrest.

"Investors are very very worried because every time workers go on strike, they lose lots and lots of money," she said. "And, of course, they keep asking the question, is it really worth investing in South Africa?"

The country's mining industry has experienced periods of unrest for years.

In Marikana, at the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality in North West province, 34 people were killed and several policemen were injured after they shot at protesters.

But Mutasa reported that no one was injured during Tuesday's demonstration.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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