Labour unrest spreads

Striking South African platinum miners.

RUSTENBURG, South Africa — Labour unrest in South Africa’s platinum belt spread today, raising concerns that anger over low wages and poor living conditions could generate fresh violence after 34 striking miners were shot dead by police last week.

The strike that started last week at Lonmin’s Marikana mine has driven up platinum prices and stoked worries about investing in Africa’s biggest economy, where chronic unemployment and massive income disparities threaten social stability.

The world’s top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, said it had received a demand for a pay increase from its South African workers, while a trade union said miners at Royal Bafokeng Platinum’s Rasimone site had been blocked from reporting for work by colleagues.

The price of platinum leapt to its highest since early May today, driven by concern about supply from South Africa, which holds 80 per cent of the known reserves of the metal, used in jewelry and for catalytic converters in cars.

Ten people had been killed last week before police opened fire on striking miners on Thursday, shooting dead another 34 in the worst such bloodshed since the end of apartheid white rule in 1994. President Jacob Zuma has ordered an inquiry.

The labour troubles were touched off by a violent turf war between labour unions at the Marikana mine. Similar rumblings have emerged at other mines. (Reuters)

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