15 Sep 2012

South Africa clamps down on mine unrest

8:18 pm on 15 September 2012

South African police have raided hostels at a Lonmin mine to disarm miners a day after the government promised to crack down on illegal gatherings and the carrying of weapons by strikers.

About 500 police officers raided the hostels at Lonmin's Karee platinum mine and seized weapons such as machetes and spears, regional police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said.

South Africa has faced a wave of labour unrest that started five weeks ago at Lonmin's Marikana mines, about 100km from Johannesburg.

Four of the country's gold and platinum mines have now been shut down, the BBC reports.

The government warned it would crack down swiftly on anyone involved in an illegal gathering or carrying weapons but Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said that this did not amount to a state of emergency.

The move came as striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine rejected a pay offer and some unions threatened a general strike.

Despite the government warning, unrest continued in the Rustenburg area. Leading platinum producer Aquarius closed a mine after protesters gathered outside, while Xstrata shut a nearby chrome plant.

The mining unrest has been marked by violent clashes, including the shooting dead of 34 striking miners by police at Marikana in August.

It has since spread to other gold and platinum mines in South Africa - a major exporter of precious minerals.