Up to 18 people have reportedly been killed after South African riot police opened fire on striking miners armed with machetes and sticks at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine.
Heavily-armed officers were laying out barbed wire barricades when they were outflanked by some of the 3,000 miners in what appears to be the deadliest episode of a week of violence between rival unions.
Before this clash, ten people including two policemen, had died in fighting at the mine, the latest platinum plant to be hit by an eight-month turf war in the world’s main producer of the precious metal.
The strikers have not made their demands explicit, although much of the bad blood stems from a dispute between the established National Union of Mineworkers and fledgling Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
The unrest has forced Marikana’s London-headquartered owner to halt production at all of its South African operations, which account for 12 percent of global platinum output.