World’s Biggest Platinum Mine Under Police Control After Riots

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) said police are monitoring the world’s biggest platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa after violent demonstrations yesterday.

A “big police presence” has been sent to the mine, also known as Impala, after the unrest yesterday, he said. Today about 500 miners and unemployed people protested outside the mine, Sydwell Dokolwana, the National Union of Mineworkers’ regional secretary in Rustenburg, said. Demonstrators yesterday killed a miner who was on his way to work, he said in a phone interview.

“The situation was very, very tense in the morning,” Dokolwana said. “Because of the presence of police for now there are no road blockages. People are just singing and carrying sticks and pangas,” Dokolwana said, referring to heavy, machete-like knives usually used to clear vegetation.

Impala fired 17,200 workers at the mine, which accounts for about 12 percent of global production of platinum, two weeks ago after an illegal strike began. By Feb. 14 the disruption had delayed output of 60,000 ounces of the metal worth about 1.2 billion rand ($154 million), Impala’s Chief Executive Officer, David Brown, said yesterday.

About 500 policemen have been deployed to the operation, the South African Press Association reported, citing Brigadier Thulani Ngubane, a police officer.

Impala shares rose 3.26 rand, or 2 percent, to 161.40 rand as of 2:52 p.m. in Johannesburg after declining 4 percent yesterday. The price of platinum rose 0.8 percent to $1,636.75 an ounce as of 12:53 p.m. in London.

Dispute Meeting

The union will meet Impala to try and resolve the situation at 4:30 p.m. local time in Johannesburg today, Dokolwana said. The protests were sparked by rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers, recognized by Impala as the main labor group at the operation, and the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union, which is trying to gain members, Brown said.

The mine was “basically quiet” overnight and this morning, the company said in an e-mailed response to questions today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net; Jana Marais in Johannesburg at jmarais@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net; Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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