Amplats Workers, Security Guards Injured in Mine Clashes

Police Investigating Shooting of Five Anglo Platinum Workers
A group of Anglo American Platinum Ltd. workers are gathered outside the Khomanani shaft, one of the top global platinum producers, in Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg. Photographer: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s largest producer of the metal, said security guards used rubber bullets in clashes between rival labor groups at its South African Siphumelele mine that injured 12 people.

Nine workers were shot and three security guards were hurt in fighting at the mine in Rustenburg, according to an e-mailed statement from Amplats, as the company is known. There were no fatalities and the injured employees received medical attention.

The clashes occurred when members of the Workers Committee, a non-unionized group, demanded officials from the National Union of Mineworkers vacate their offices, Amplats said. The Johannesburg-based company is in the process of validating union membership at the mine, it said.

Rivalry between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union contributed to 10 days of violence at a Lonmin Plc mine near Rustenburg in August in which 10 people died. Police opened fire on striking workers at the site on Aug. 16, killing 34 protesters. The AMCU has sought to exploit waning support for the NUM, South Africa’s biggest union and an ally of the African National Congress, to expand its membership.

Deep Concern

“Anglo American Platinum expresses its deep concern about this incident and appeals for its employees to remain calm and respect the company’s dispute resolution process,” Amplats said.

Security guards at Siphumelele received minor injuries when they tried to evacuate NUM members from their offices today. Police said in a statement that some people had been attacked with machetes and other sharp objects.

“Police are investigating cases ranging from public violence, attempted murder and assault,” it said in an e-mailed statement.

Strikes in the mining industry last year shut gold and platinum mines, reducing South Africa’s gross domestic product by 0.5 percentage point, according to the National Treasury, and contributed to a drop in the nation’s credit rating.

Amplats shares fell the most in a month, declining 4.9 percent to 442.94 rand. Anglo American Plc, which controls Amplats, lost 2.7 percent to 1,985 pence at 4:09 p.m. in London.

The rand erased earlier gains after reports of the violence, dropping as much as 0.5 percent to 8.8985 against the dollar. It traded at 8.8927 as of 6:23 p.m. in Johannesburg.

Amplats said last month it may shut four mine shafts to curb costs and stem losses spurred by a two-month strike last year. The plan, which would cut about 7 percent of global output, was put on hold following criticism from the South African government. The postponement allows for talks with the Department of Mineral Resources and unions.

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