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Africa

Third South African mine closes amid growing unrest

© AFP

Latest update : 2012-09-14

A third South African mine closed Friday amid rising tensions within the mining sector. Xstrata platinum mine says it suspended operations over security concerns for its employees, who were reported to be threatened by strikers from Lonmin mine.

A third platinum mine closed in South Africa even as police dispersed strikers outside, acting within hours of the government vowing to end violence spreading in the crucial mining sector.

Xstrata Platinum Ltd says it temporarily suspended operations at Kroondal mine Friday “to ensure the safety and security of employees and assets” amid “rising tensions and protests.”

The mine employees 5,300 workers who apparently were being threatened by strikers outside from Lonmin Platinum mine.

Police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said police fired stun grenades and arrested seven people.

It is the first time police acted against protesters since they killed 34 strikers Aug. 16 at Lonmin platinum mine.

A few hours earlier, the government had announced it was going to clamp down on unrest. At a news conference called by six cabinet heavyweights, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced a crackdown on "illegal gatherings" and the carrying of weapons.

“This is not a state of emergency. We want to bring back public order in those affected areas so that the economy of our country can continue to run normally," said Radebe, who warned police would make arrests.

The world's number one platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), and the number three company, Lonmin, have already ground to a halt in the mineral-rich region.

The mining sector, the backbone of South Africa's economy, directly employs around 500,000 people and accounts for nearly one fifth of gross domestic product when related activities are included.

It also brings in about half of the nation's export earnings.

The labour strike has also spread to the gold sector where 15,000 Gold Fields miners have been striking since Sunday.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warned that the unrest, if unchecked, would hit already slowing economic growth and raise joblessness, while the violence would damage investor confidence.

"If this instability continues and the lack of production continues, firstly the cost will be in terms of the overall growth numbers in South Africa," he told reporters.

(FRANCE24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-09-14

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