South African police fire tear gas and rubber bullets at striking miners
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse strikers at the Marikana mine, in response to mounting unrest in the area. Protesters threw stones at the officers and burned car tires.
That morning, police raided shacks of the striking workers, arresting five people and seizing weapons like spears and machetes. According to police, the workers were arrested on separate charges of dealing drugs.
Striking miners flee South African police in Marikana on September 15, 2012 at Lonmin's platinum mine (AFP Photo / Alexander Joe)
Police shot and killed 34 miners during a strike at the mine in August. So far, 45 people have been killed in violence connected to the strike.
“Five hundred [officers] intervened at 2:00 am [12:00 GMT] in an area with hostels where about 600 miners are residing around Marikana,” regional police spokesperson Thulani Ngubane told AFP.
South African police confront a miner in Marikana on September 15, 2012 at Lonmin's platinum mine (AFP Photo / Alexander Joe)
The crackdown came in the wake of a Friday announcement that the government is stepping up its security efforts to quell unrest at the platinum mines of the northwest town of Rustenburg. “Illegal gatherings, the carrying of dangerous weapons, incitement as well as threats of violence against anyone in the affected areas will be dealt with accordingly,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said.
Strikes began last month over wage disputes between the workers and mine manager Lonmin, the world’s third biggest producer of platinum. The miners' demands included a pay hike to over $1,000 a month.
South African police arrest a miner in Marikana on September 15, 2012 at Lonmin's platinum mine (AFP Photo / Alexander Joe)
Lonmin increased its pay concession on Friday, but it was still short of the miners' demands; they rejected the offer. The protest has since spread to the country's gold industry, with 15,000 gold miners on strike since Sunday.
Mining is central to South Africa’s economy – the industry employs some 500,000 people and makes up half of the country’s exports, accounting for around one-fifth of the gross domestic product.
A miner shows a bullet the police fired at them in Marikana on September 15, 2012 (AFP Photo / Alexander Joe)