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Mines reopen, situation still tense

Sep 17 2012 10:30

Johannesburg - Two mines in South Africa reopened their doors on Monday after suspending operations last week as a precaution against the labour unrest sweeping through the region's platinum belt, although the situation on the ground remained tense.

Police launched a crackdown over the weekend to disarm miners and end five weeks of labour unrest, following a government promise to get tough on strikes that have choked off platinum output in the world's top producer of the metal.

Soldiers have also been called in to help the police, although their precise role is not clear.

Aquarius Platinum's Kroondal platinum mine and Xstrata's chrome mine near Rustenburg restarted on Monday.

Anglo Platinum (Amplats), the world's top platinum producer, said work at its strike-hit Rustenburg mines would resume on Tuesday, although a representative of one group of strikers described that as a "joke", adding Amplats management were "whistling in the dark".

"For us, the reality is that the general strike is on," Mametlwe Sebei, a self-styled Rustenburg community leader and Marxist politician, told Reuters. "We are going to be demonstrating in defiance. We will not be intimidated."

Christopher Tsatsawane, a spokesperson for Xstrata Alloys, said the situation in Rustenburg remained tense.

"As our employees were coming to work, there has been intimidation which is all over Rustenburg," he said, adding that only 10% of its chrome mine's employees reported for work at the weekend due to intimidation.

Xstrata and other platinum mines in the area have been hit by wildcat strikes since police killed 34 miners at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on August 16, the bloodiest police action since the end of apartheid in 1994.

A total of 45 people have been killed in the unrest.

Police raided a Lonmin hostel on Saturday and seized spears, machetes and other weapons from strikers. They late used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse groups of protesters.

Wage talks between the miners and Lonmin are due to resume at 08:00 GMT.

On Friday, workers at the mine dismissed an initial Lonmin offer as way below the R12 500 a month sought by members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which is challenging the influence of the more established National Union of Mineworkers (Num).

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