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Strikers aim to shut down all NWest mines

Sep 13 2012 13:05 Sapa

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Rustenburg - Security was tight at Rustenburg's Blesbok stadium on Thursday when thousands of Anglo Platinum (Amplats) [JSE:AMS] mineworkers streamed in for a mass meeting.

The workers hoped mineworkers at Lonmin's [JSE:LON] nearby platinum mine would join them so they could halt work at all the mines in North West to show mine bosses how serious they were about their demand for a R12 500 monthly salary.

"We want workers in Lonmin to come and join us. It seems we are all underpaid," protester Mziyanda Mehlo said.

As has been the case the past week, the police had nyalas stationed in the area and a helicopter overhead. Amplats security vehicles and security guards were also on alert, and a Netcare911 ambulance was on standby.

Workers entered the stadium carrying knobkerries, sticks and whips. Some also carried umbrellas.

Amplats suspended operations on Wednesday out of concern for the safety of its employees. CEO Chris Griffith said the situation in the Rustenburg area was volatile, and that people who wanted to go to work could not because of threats of violence.

"Anglo American Platinum has decided to suspend its operations in the Rustenburg area with immediate effect," he said in a statement.

"The suspension will continue until such time as operations can be safely resumed."

Griffith denied that staff were on strike.

Amplats' chairperson Cynthia Carroll said: "We are in touch with the authorities at the highest level to identify how we can work together with our tripartite partners - government and the recognised labour unions - to achieve a swift and peaceful resolution to these illegal actions."

Carroll said the company's Rustenburg platinum operations were already under financial pressure, and the suspension of operations on Wednesday risked their long-term viability the longer the situation lasted.

A strike at Lonmin entered its second month this week. Workers at Gold Fields' KDC west mine were also on strike on Thursday.

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