Aquarius Falls to Record After Deadly Attack: Johannesburg Mover

Aquarius Platinum Ltd. fell to a record low in Johannesburg trading after an attack by an armed mob left three dead and at least 20 injured at its Kroondal mine’s Kwezi shaft in South Africa.

The stock fell as much as 9.1 percent to 4.50 rand, the lowest since the Perth-based company started trading on the exchange in December 2004. It was at 4.68 rand as of 10:08 a.m.

About 200 people, some armed, forced their way onto the Kwezi shaft area in the North West province, throwing gasoline bombs and threatening the lives of employees, Aquarius said in a statement yesterday. Kwezi accounts for about a quarter of Kroondal mine’s production.

Aquarius said on July 4 it will stop using contract miners, including services provided by a unit of Murray & Roberts Holdings Ltd., to cut costs as platinum prices fall. It idled the Marikana, Everest and Blue Ridge mines earlier this year. Platinum fell 22 percent in the last six months to $1,401.50, also prompting Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the largest producer, to cut spending and suspend dividends.

Work at Kwezi resumed later yesterday and continues today, Aquarius said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The catalyst yesterday presumably was that the decision by Murray & Roberts Cementation to dismiss their employees following an illegal strike was upheld,” it said.

Lost production from yesterday’s incident is estimated at 2,800 tons, Aquarius said in a statement today. Kroondal, which began production in August 1999, is Aquarius’s biggest mine, according to the company’s website. It also operates the Mimosa venture in Zimbabwe.

Kwezi was disrupted in July by unlawful strikes accompanied by incidents of intimidation and violence stemming from tension between rival mining unions, Aquarius said July 23. About 100,000 tons of the mine’s monthly production had been lost by then, it said.

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